Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CA: Out-of-state egg bill goes to governor

In 2008, HSUS steered a successful ballot campaign convincing Californians that hen-laying chickens needed more room to move. Additional legislation now bans all sources of eggs from caged hens from being imported, sold, and used in the state of California as well as threatening producers and suppliers with jail time. It remains to be seen how animal rights philosophy, now permanently injected into California law, will impact the food supply for California citizens.

By WES SANDER Capital Press

A bill that would apply California's animal-welfare law to out-of-state egg producers has gone to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk without the amendments that producers originally hoped for.

The bill, AB1437, would apply the rules created by Proposition 2 to producers whose shelled eggs are sold in California. Prop. 2, enacted by voters in 2008, mandates that food-animal enclosures allow freedom of movement. It applies mostly to the state's egg production.

California's egg industry saw the bill, by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, as an opportunity to define the cage sizes permissible under Prop. 2. But the Humane Society of the United States, the initiative's principal proponent, has argued that there exist no commercially viable cages that could satisfy the law.

Producers have said they need the cage sizes specified in order to plan construction of new barns and approach banks for financing. With Prop. 2 set to take effect in 2015, time is beginning to run short, said Dennis Albiani, spokesman for the Association of California Egg Farmers.

"We will continue to pursue that," Albiani said. "We'll work with the administration, we'll work with the Legislature. We do believe that ambiguity is difficult to deal with for a producer."

Huffman put his bill on hold last July to allow the sides to settle the argument. But an unrelated court decision later established that a ballot initiative cannot be amended by the Legislature.

The state's egg industry has taken a neutral stance on Huffman's bill. It is divided among members who produce in California only, those who produce in and out of state and those who purchase outside eggs to supplement deliveries.

HSUS said it pushed for a "performance-based" standard for the statute, mandating that animals be allowed to move freely.

An "engineering" standard specifying cage measurements would have generated resistance for "over-architecting how farmers produce," HSUS California director Jennifer Fearing said.

Fearing said the standard also leaves the possibility open for future systems that might comply. Currently, only a cage-free system offers that possibility, despite farmers' protests that it allows hens to pile up in corners and results in dirty conditions, Fearing said. "Good animal welfare is at least possible in a cage-free environment," she said.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

HSUS Files FTC Complaint Against Rose Acre Farms

HSUS continues to wage war against the agricultural community. If the "clandestine" undercover video actually showed any wrong-doing on the part of Rose Acre, HSUS would have jumped at the chance to bring in federal inspectors rather than merely write to FTC.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed a complaint this week with the Federal Trade Commission asking it to order Rose Acre Farms to stop making "false and misleading animal welfare claims."

The complaint accuses Rose Acre, through its promotions, web sites and spokespeople, of falsely stating that the company, the second-largest commercial egg producer in the U.S., provides a "humane and friendly environment" for its hens. HSUS said this is "grossly misleading."

HSUS referred to clandestinely filmed video at three of the company's hen houses in Iowa that "found conditions starkly at odds with the cheerful claims of the company" (Feedstuffs, April 12).

Rose Acre attorney Joe Miller said the company has not yet seen the complaint but stands behind its animal welfare program "and the humane way that we treat our animals."