(ANIMAL WELFARE) There’s no doubt 2016 was a year filled with major ups and downs, but one thing is for sure: farm animals came out on top!

Not only did major corporations like McDonald’s and Burger King pledge to phase out battery cages for for egg-laying hens, but they also vowed to eliminate the use of pig gestation crates.

Pets were also big winners in 2016. While dozens of localities banned or restricted the sale of puppy mill dogs, others enacted legislation to prohibit gas chambers for euthanasia.

It’s clear that U.S. voters overwhelmingly support animal protection ballot measures. Be on the lookout for this year’s pro-animal ballot initiatives, including The Humane Cosmetics Act, and continue reading below for more significant gains for animals in 2016. — Global Animal

Pigs, Gestation Crates, Animal Cruelty, Factory Farms, Walmart
Pigs used for food are sometimes kept in small cages called gestation crates for much of their lives. Photo Credit: AP’s Amy Sancetta; Science Progress

Santa Barbara Independent, Lisa Acho Remorenko

2016 was a year where farm animals came out on top. Major companies pledged to phase out battery cages and gestation crates (see definition of both below). It was also a year that benefited domestic pets. Puppy mills were banned in several states, pets used in research are getting a second chance, and greyhound racing is becoming a thing of the past. Read below for more highlights.

Global progress for farm animals

Major companies pledged to phase out battery cages, with some companies pledging to eliminate gestation crates at the same time. These companies include McDonald’s, Burger King, and Compass Group, the world’s largest food service provider.

Battery cages are a housing system used for various animal production methods, but primarily for egg-laying hens eggs. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the name refers to the arrangement of rows and columns of identical cages connected together, sharing common divider walls, as in the cells of a battery. In the U.S., more than 90 percent of the 300 million egg-laying chickens are housed in battery cage. On average, each caged laying hen is afforded only 67 square inches of cage space, less space than a single sheet of letter-sized paper on which to live her entire life. Unable even to spread their wings, caged laying hens are among the most intensively confined animals in agribusiness.

Gestational crates are two-foot-wide metal enclosures that are used in pig farming. A female pig is kept in this type of enclosure during pregnancy and for most of her adult life. The crates are banned in the European Union, Canada, and in nine states in the U.S.(Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island). However, farrowing crates, in which female breeding pigs can be kept for up to five weeks, are not banned.

An increasing number of companies are vowing to go cage-free. Photo Credit: Reuters / Mike Blake

Question 3 Passed in Massachusetts

This ballot measure, which bans the sale and production of eggs, veal, and pork from animals confined in cages, passed with an overwhelming 78 percent of the vote, a greater margin than any animal protection ballot measure in history!

Companies went cage-free

Many major food companies switched from battery cages to cage-free eggs. The impressive list includes Walmart, Kroger, Kraft Heinz, Safeway, and dozens more. These pledges have had a game-changing effect on the egg industry. Because of this success, an NPR headline touted, “Most U.S. Egg Producers Are Now Choosing Cage-Free Houses.”

Federal government wins

2016 was a year when the Obama Administration closed a loophole allowing downer veal calves to be set aside and left to linger rather than requiring immediate euthanasia. The Obama Administration is also poised to finalize a rule that would dramatically upgrade animal welfare standards for animal products labeled as “organic.”

Puppy mills mass-breed puppies for sale, often in inhumane conditions. Photo credit: NYS Citizens Against Puppy Mills

States crack down on puppy mills

Boston, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Portland, Maine, and dozens of other localities enacted ordinances to ban or restrict the sale of puppy mill dogs. Puppy mills are large-scale breeding facilities where profit is given priority over the well being of the dogs.

Dogs and cats used in research get a second chance

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law to require publicly funded institutions of higher education to give dogs and cats used in biomedical research and testing a second chance at adoption into forever homes. That’s a lifeline for hundreds of dogs and cats in state-funded institutions.

While greyhound racing has declined sharply in recent years, there are still more than a dozen racetracks still in operation throughout the U.S.

Greyhound racing ended in Kansas and Arizona

A bill was defeated in Kansas that would have reopened multiple greyhound racing tracks in the state and Arizona finally passed legislation to end the practice there.

Closing down gas chambers

Legislation was passed to prohibit gas chambers for euthanasia in California and South Carolina, and regulations prohibiting the use of carbon monoxide for euthanasia in Kansas were established. The last known gas chambers in Michigan, Nevada, and Oklahoma were also closed.

As we saw in 2016, voters overwhelmingly approved animal protection ballot measures. As those votes reinforce yet again, animal protection is an issue that our nation believes in. There are many pro-animal ballot initiatives coming up in 2017: The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, The Humane Cosmetics Act, and The Pet and Women’s Safety Act, just to name a few.

If animal advocates continue to fight for what we believe in, then 2017 can be a year where the animals come out on top once again.

More Santa Barbara Independent: http://www.independent.com/news/2017/jan/06/significant-gains-animals-2016/