In 2024, residents of the Californian city of Berkeley will vote to ban factory farms in its city limits, the first time in the US that such a ban has been put on the ballot. Despite the fact the city has no factory farms at this moment, this measure may influence other municipalities in the State which may in the future ask similar questions to their residents.
If it happens anywhere, it is likely to be in Berkeley, which is a liberal San Francisco Bay Area city known to be at the forefront of US animal rights policy. Berkeley was among the first cities to ban the sale of new fur and now the entire state of California has banned it, and the city already runs “Green Monday” in which all city-owned and -managed facilities and programs provide only plant-based food options.
Cassie King, an organizer with Direct Action Everywhere, one of the groups that pushed for the measure, said to The Guardian, “We can pave the path to abolishing factory farming.”
As 90% of the animals from animal agriculture in the US are raised in factory farms (concentrated animal feeding operations, CAFOs) it would be difficult for such a ban to become a reality other than in municipalities that do not have any of these farms. In this case, if the proposal is approved in Berkley, a horse racetrack field would also be shut down, so the vote would not be entirely symbolic. However, a 2019 poll showed that 43% of US voters support a ban on new CAFOs, and in 2021, New Jersey senator Cory Booker reintroduced the Farm System Reform Act, legislation which would place a moratorium on new and expanding CAFOs, as well as phase out the largest ones by 2040. Therefore, perhaps the tide is turning and this initiative will end up closing down some farms.