Environmental activism groups said they have gathered the required number of signatures to put a measure on the 2024 ballot that would ban factory farms in Berkeley.

The ordinance, pushed forward by the groups Direct Action Everywhere and Compassionate Bay, would prohibit concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, as commonly referred to by activists as factory farms. If passed, the measure would be the first of its kind in California.

CAFOs are agricultural operations where animals are stabled or confined and fed for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, according to the ordinance. CAFOs are additionally categorized by the number of different kinds of animals that they have as well as the degree of their pollution.

‘Routinely confined and abused’

Advocates say that CAFOs contribute to climate change and public health risks as well as engage in animal abuse.

Agriculture is responsible for 38 percent of methane emissions in the United States, and factory farms contribute to droughts and wildfires in the state, according to the ordinance. Animals are “routinely confined and abused in CAFOs across California,” reads the ordinance.

The activist groups previously got a factory farm moratorium introduced on the state level with Assembly Bill 2764 in 2022. The bill never reached a vote by the Legislature.

The measure comes on the heels of the recently announced planned shutdown of the Golden Gate Fields racetrack, the only operating CAFO in Berkeley. Activists alleged that the racetrack operators engaged in horse abuse.

It is slated to permanently close in October, the end of the 2023 racing meet. In response to alleged horse abuse at Golden Gate Fields, City Councilmember Kate Harrison introduced an ordinance in July shortly before the racetrack shutdown was announced that would establish a protection policy for racehorses.

The council plans to discuss the ordinance in September. The activist groups are currently collecting more signatures, though they have reached the 3,000 required by Alameda County for the ordinance to go on the ballot in November 2024.

Lydia Sidhom is a rising third-year at UC Berkeley studying Data Science and Political Science. She is a Dow Jones News Fund intern for Bay City News. Lydia was a lead beat reporter, deputy news editor and projects developer for The Daily Californian and will be a deputy projects editor there this fall. She enjoys telling stories through data. In her free time, Lydia loves to read, bake and travel.