Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lummis clause preventing wolf lawsuits survives challenge

By JEREMY PELZER Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette

Thursday, July 28, 2011. CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A proposed ban on lawsuits against an impending Wyoming wolf management deal survived a legislative challenge in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.

House members voted 250-174 to keep a rider in a 2012 Interior appropriations bill that would prevent any litigation against a potentially imminent agreement between Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would put the state’s roughly 340 wolves under state control.

Earlier this month, Gov. Matt Mead and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said they hoped to reach an agreement by the end of July that would remove Wyoming wolves from the federal endangered-species list and allow unregulated killing of the animals in all but the northwestern part of the state.

Mead and other state officials have repeatedly said that a congressional “no-litigation” clause is vital to protect any agreement reached from lawsuits by environmental groups and others.

The rider, inserted by U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., would also put Wyoming wolves directly under state control as soon as a deal is reached.

Lummis’ budget rider was unsuccessfully challenged by an amendment from U.S. Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash., as 24 Democrats joined 226 Republicans in voting to keep the language in the bill.

Congressional observers have said that they expect Lummis’ wolf rider to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. However, they’re uncertain how the proposal will fare in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Salazar also spoke out against Lummis’ rider earlier this month.

In April, Montana’s two U.S. senators successfully passed a budget rider delisting wolves in five other Western states, along with a no-litigation clause.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wolves back in court

Outdoors blog
Idaho-Montana wolf issues head back to court on Tuesday

July 25. PREDATORS — The battle over the status of gray wolves in Idaho and Montana returns to court Tuesday, where environmental groups will argue Congress overstepped its authority when it stripped the animals of federal protection last May, according to a report by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Two legal scholars who specialize in environmental and constitutional law say the greens face long odds in their effort to reinstate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves.

Read on for the rest of Barker's story.

The groups, which include the Moscow-based Friends of the Clearwater, the WildEarth Guardians, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Center for Biological Diversity, claim Congress violated the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine when it attached a rider to a federal appropriations bill that delisted wolves. The rider ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-publish a wolf delisting rule that had been overturned in 2010 by Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, Mont. The rider also said the rule would not be subject to judicial review.

The groups have argued in court briefs that because the wolf case was being appealed and a decision was pending, the rider unconstitutionally interfered with the judicial branch. Specifically they say the rider “directs an outcome in pending litigation without changing underlying law or providing the courts with new law or standards to apply.”

The rider authored by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, makes no reference to the underlying law, the Endangered Species Act. For example, Molloy ruled the delisting rule was illegal because it removed protection for wolves in the Northern Rockies in only a portion of their range, Idaho and Montana, but not in Wyoming. The rider does not explicitly change the ESA to make that legal in either a narrow or broad sense.

The federal government responded in court documents that the action by Congress implicitly amends the ESA by overriding all existing laws that govern wolves and it does not infringe on the authority of the court.

Michael Blumm, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., said administrative rules, such as the ones that list and delist species under the ESA, can be challenged under the Administrative Procedures Act or the ESA. Since both were authored by Congress, it has jurisdiction over them and because of that it can order a rule exempt from judicial review. full story

Related articles:
RMEF Files Motion to Intervene in Latest Wolf Suit

Gazette opinion: Wolf rider implements needed state plans

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Endangered Species Service? Obama Administration Deal Forces Questionable ESA Listings

An important message from U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, Friday, July 22, 2011 3:44:00 PM

By Bill Horn, Director of Federal Affairs
While debt ceiling talks and the stalled economy dominant Washington, D.C., the pot continues to boil regarding hunting and fishing issues. The Obama Administration just cut a deal with the anti-hunting activists at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) on accelerated Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings. Per the legal agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is required to consider adding 757 species, subspecies, or distinct population segments to the list of endangered or threatened species. Decisions on all 757 must be rendered by October, 2016. The list includes species that are presently fished, hunted or trapped, including golden trout, cottontail rabbits, sage grouse, fisher, and wolverine.

Obligating FWS to engage in an unprecedented level of ESA listings will require millions of dollars and eat up untold hours of agency personnel time. Other key agency programs will suffer, including operation of the National Wildlife Refuge System (and hunting, fishing, and trapping which occurs on the majority of the 553 Refuge units), migratory bird management, and fisheries restoration. USSA has always been a strong supporter of FWS and these vital conservation programs. As a former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (overseeing FWS), I am deeply worried that the Obama-CBD deal converts FWS into the “Endangered Species Service.”

The timing on this deal looks like an effort to thwart Congressional efforts to rein in the ESA program. The House of Representatives is about to pass the Interior Department funding bill (including FWS) which severely restricts new ESA listings. The House wants the Service to use its finite money and personnel resources to focus on recovering already listed species rather than listing 757 more species (many of which are “endangered” only in the minds of anti-hunting activists). What CBD, and its Administration pals, cannot get via Congress, they want to get via this court settlement.

Interior, and FWS, are also about to get a new Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. President Obama recently nominated Rebecca Wodder to the post. She had her first (of two) Senate confirmation hearings this week. Wodder is a long time D.C. environmental activist who began her career in the late 1970’s as a staffer for Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) often considered the “father” of Earth Day. She later spent 15 years with The Wilderness Society (with whom USSA has long been fighting over wildlife management and hunting access issues) before becoming Executive Director of American Rivers in 1995. Wodder has not taken anti-hunting positions but has also not been a vocal supporter of the hunting community. We expect her to take office in September.

Stay tuned and be prepared for what will no doubt be a large and contentious issue facing all sportsmen, sportswomen, and other conservationists.

Oregon Congressman David Wu resigns

Oregon Congressman David Wu (D-1) resigned today amid new emerging scandal and calls for him to step down from office. Long time animal rights supporter, Wu had received 100 percent ratings from the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI); Defenders of Wildlife; and Big Cat Rescue. From 2009-2010 Wu missed a perfect score of 100 from HSUS/Humane Society Legislative Fund for failing to endorse the ban on chimps in research. Wu received the HSLF Human Advocate Award in 2006.

NCBA statement on HSUS-Egg agreement

A truly excellent statement on an issue that should be a major concern for all animal industries as well as consumers.

CattleNetwork. Washington July 13, 2011 – National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall issued the following statement regarding a July 7, 2011, agreement between the United Egg Producers (UEP) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to work together toward the enactment of federally mandated egg production standards.

“Cattlemen are rightfully concerned with the recent UEP-HSUS agreement to seek unprecedented federal legislation to mandate on-farm production standards. Cattlemen take very seriously the responsibility to care for their animals. Cattlemen support and actively participate in multiple voluntary, industry led initiatives aimed at ensuring the production of healthy cattle and, ultimately, the safest, highest quality and most nutritious beef. The U.S. beef industry is recognized as a worldwide leader for its proactive and responsible health and wellbeing programs.

“More than two decades ago, long before agenda-driven, well-funded animal rights extremists started spreading fiction as fact, cattlemen adopted voluntary production practice guidelines. Unfortunately, these groups have repeatedly ignored the beef industry’s many cattle care programs, including Beef Quality Assurance program and the Cattle Industry’s Guidelines for the Care and Handling of Cattle. These programs set specific guidelines and provide hands-on training based on decades of practical experience, research and the most up-to-date science and education. They are updated regularly to ensure the use of the newest scientifically sound information and provide flexibility to meet the diversity of the industry.

“The cattle industry’s successful programs were not the result of a government mandate. They were developed by industry for industry to ensure cattlemen constantly improve handling and management techniques. And we will continue working to ensure our standards – not just animal care and handling, but food safety and environmental stewardship as well – are based on the latest knowledge. Unlike the UEP-HSUS agreement, our cattle care programs should never be weakened by being misused or construed as the basis of a regulatory or government mandated program.”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee to retire

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) will not seek reelection, the congressman announced earlier this month. Kildee has served 18 terms in office. HSUS has honored Kildee with multiple awards from 2006-2010 for his consistent perfect scores of 100 on the organization's Humane Scorecard.

Upon receiving the HSUS Humane Advocate award in 2008, Kildee issued the following press release:

"I am grateful to receive this award, but the real thanks goes to the Humane Society for more than fifty years of dedicated service," Congressman Kildee said. "I fully endorse the mission and achievements of the Humane Society and the protection of animals from abuse, cruelty and neglect will remain among my top priorities as I cast my vote."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Has the HSUS hijacked the APHIS Office of Enforcement?

Frank Losey sends us the following report concerning a potential Conflict of Interest at APHIS as a result of hiring ex-HSUS employee, Ms. Sarah Conant, to fill a newly created enforcement position.

In May of 2010 the Inspector General of the USDA released a scathing report that criticized APHIS for placing too much emphasis on education and not enough on enforcement. One of its recommendations included creating an Office within APHIS that would specifically focus on enforcement. And the person who was hired to fill the new position was an attorney who had specialized in Animal Law Issues. Her name is Ms. Sarah L. Conant, and she has been issuing a number of “enforcement” letters to dog breeders, and to at least one rabbit breeder with assessed fines up to $50,000 or more. A sampling of some of Ms. Conant’s “legal qualifications” that may have been considered by the USDA when she was selected to fill the newly created APHIS position, which may give all responsible breeders a reason to say “OMG,” is set out below:

• Ms. Conant was employed by the HSUS as a Litigation Attorney immediately before she was hired by the USDA.

• Ms. Conant first became associated with the HSUS when she was designated as an HSUS Litigation Fellow.

• In 2007 Ms. Conant was featured and quoted in a Virginia Law Publication entitled “Humane Society Lawyers Fight Culture of Cruelty, Government Bureaucracy.” One of her quotes included the statement that “Humane Society lawyers are working with legislatures and in the courts to change laws that affect the lives of farm animals,” and that “they are forced to go state by state in this effort because there are very few federal laws regarding farm animals.”

• Ms. Conant was employed by the HSUS in the same HSUS Litigation Office which was so actively involved in the Litigation last year that challenged placing the Proposition B Ballot Initiative on the November 2011 Ballot in Missouri.

• Ms. Conant’s “Name” has appeared as Counsel of Record for the HSUS on Lawsuits and Complaints filed against Federal Agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and the U. S. Department of Agriculture, which now is her current employer. (Here it is significant to note that on at least one Lawsuit document that may be found on the HSUS Website, the name of “Sarah L. Conant” was no longer listed as one of the Counsel of Record, even though the originally filed document filed listed her name. Surely the HSUS would not engage in a “COVER-UP!” Or would it?!

• Ms. Conant worked in the same HSUS Litigation Office that sued the USDA under the Freedom of Information Act last October. This Lawsuit seeks personal, confidential and business sensitive information on every USDA Licensed Breeder in Missouri.

• Ms. Conant is listed as the Vice Chair of the Animal Law Section of the DC Bar, and is listed as representing the HSUS with no reference to the position that she currently holds with USDA.

While some may suggest that Ms. Conant has appropriate qualifications to act as the Chief of the Enforcement Section of APHIS, I personally and professionally believe that an egregious “Conflict of Interest” exists. In this regard, Rule 1.11 that is published by the American Bar Association specifically addresses “Conflicts of Interests For Former and Current Government Officers and Employees.” The relevant language states: “a lawyer currently serving as a public officer or employee shall not participate in a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially while in private practice or nongovernment employment, unless the appropriate government agency gives its informed consent, confirmed in writing.” This is why a FOIA Request was submitted for a copy of the USDA “Informed Consent Document,” or a comparable “Conflict of Interest Document.” In the Practice of Law, some would consider a Breach of the “Conflict of Interest” Standard to represent a serious issue that involves “Legal Ethics.”

Three Little “Dashes” of Potentially “Good News”:

• First Dash: On Monday, July 11, 2011, I received confirmation from the IRS that it had assigned a Case File Number (2011-010153) for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Perhaps, just perhaps, someday the ASPCA will look back in the next year or so and wish that it had not thrown its “lot” in with the HSUS; that it had not contributed nearly $600,000 to the Proposition B Campaign in Missouri; that it had not been a Charter Supporter of the current and on-going “Your Vote Counts” Ballot Initiative Campaign in Missouri; and that it had not “hired away” from the HSUS Ms. Nancy Perry to fill its newly created position of Senior Vice President for Government Relations for the express purpose of overseeing the lobbying activities of the ASPCA in all 50 States, as well as at the Federal Level.

• Second Dash: On Tuesday, July 12, 2011, I received confirmation that the Inspector General of the USDA (USDA IG) had received a Fraud, Waste and Abuse Complaint that included a Freedom of Information Request for a “Conflict of Interest” Statement concerning Ms. Sarah L. Conant. While there is no guarantee that the USDA IG will find wrongdoing on the part of Ms. Conant, the potential exists that the revelation about the specific duties that she performed on behalf of her prior employer could prove to be a major source of embarrassment for the USDA, and could “taint” the integrity of every single adverse action and all assessed fines against Breeders that occurred on “her watch.” In this regard, Government Employees are expected not only to avoid “Conflicts of Interest,” but are expected to avoid any appearance of a “Conflict of Interest.” This scenario raises Issues of “Legal Ethics” - - both for the USDA and Ms. Conant who is an attorney.

• Third Dash: On Wednesday, July 13, 2011, I received confirmation that the APHIS FOIA Office had received a FOIA Request for “information” concerning Ms. Conant, and that the APHIS FOIA Office has assigned Case File Number 11-645 to this FOIA Request with a suspense date of August 10, 2011 for its response to the FOIA Request. Since it has been the HSUS that was submitting all of those FOIA requests for information about Missouri Breeders, it sure will be interesting to see if the HSUS objects to the release of information concerning Ms. Conant’s duties while she worked for the HSUS. My oh my, won’t it be interesting to see how APHIS responds to a FOIA Request that might prove to be more than a “bit embarrassing.”

When a breeder does not comply with the “Rules,” there are consequences. When a Government Employee does not comply with the “Rules,”…………………….. Well, we’ll just have to wait and see!

Visit the SAOVA website for information on the Spay Neuter HSUS Campaign.

Judge denies motion to halt NV wild-horse roundup

By MARTIN GRIFFITH Associated Press
Posted: 07/15/2011 04:52:41 PM PDT
Updated: 07/15/2011 06:50:01 PM PDT

RENO, Nev.—A federal judge Friday refused to grant an emergency injunction to halt a government roundup of about 1,700 wild horses from the range in Nevada.

U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben's ruling paves the way for the federal Bureau of Land Management to begin removing the mustangs Saturday from public lands in the sprawling Triple B Complex near the Utah line.

The judge disagreed with the Colorado-based horse advocacy group Cloud Foundation, which contends the roundup would violate the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act because the BLM failed to prove the herds there are overpopulated and causing ecological harm to public rangeland.

The herds have grown by nearly 1,600 horses since the last roundup in the complex in July 2006, McKibben said, and the range and herd itself will suffer if the population continues to grow at a 20 to 25 percent annual rate without BLM intervention.

"Plaintiffs have failed to show that a gather of this magnitude is not warranted in order to protect the rangeland habitat and maintain a thriving, natural ecological balance," the judge wrote. "The historical evidence before this court strongly supports the conclusion that the gather will benefit the horses rather than harm them, as fewer horses competing for limited resources will mean a healthier herd."

McKibben noted the high-desert complex has scarce water sources and the BLM has hauled several truckloads of water to it since June for the mustangs.
full story

Friday, July 15, 2011

Federal judge to rule on Nevada wild horse roundup

By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press

Posted on SF Gate. Thursday, July 14, 2011 (07-14) 15:47 PDT Reno, Nev. (AP) --

A federal judge said he intends to decide Friday whether to grant an emergency injunction blocking a government roundup of 1,700 wild horses in eastern Nevada, a move that also could affect other roundups on public rangeland across the West.

"I'm very concerned about the wild horses," U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben said Thursday as he questioned lawyers for both sides about their interpretations of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

Opponents of the roundup say it violates the act because the Bureau of Land Management has failed to prove the herds are overpopulated and causing ecological harm to public rangeland.

Such a finding is necessary before any of the horses can be removed from federally designated "horse management areas," they say.

"This statute was put in place for a reason — to protect these horses from man, and that includes BLM," said Rachel Fazio, a lawyer for the Colorado-based Cloud Foundation suing to block the roundup BLM intends to start Saturday.

"These horses are to be left alone and not interfered with unless there is a threat to the thriving, natural, ecological balance and that does not exist," she said.

"There may be some water issues in some isolated areas, but these horses are in great condition. There is tons of forage out there. There is no urgency right now to remove these horses from the range."

The 1,700 horses targeted for roundup are among about 2,200 that roam a series of horse management areas covering a total of 1.7 million acres southeast of Elko and northwest of Ely in northeast Nevada.

BLM maintains that area can support only between 500 and 900 horses. Agency officials say they already are trucking in water due to typical water shortages in some areas and that while forage may be adequate now, there will be less come winter.

"The plaintiff suggests we wait until the entire 1.7 million acres is severely damaged before we can act," said Erik Petersen, a Justice Department lawyer representing the BLM during Thursday's one-hour hearing.

Petersen said it is important for the agency to stick to its schedule of roundups because there are a limited number of contractors who can provide the helicopters needed for the largest gathers.

Postponing the Nevada roundup "could delay other gathers throughout the western United States," he said, adding that the next big roundup is planned in Wyoming in September.

The lawsuit accuses BLM of managing the land primarily for livestock and ignoring the act's directive to manage the land "devoted to mustangs and burros principally for their welfare."

McKibben asked Fazio on Thursday, "What does `principally' mean?"

"Mostly," she answered. "There are multiple uses of the land but make sure the horses have the most."

"It's not exclusive, but in the few areas where the BLM has designated ranges to sustain wild horse herds, they should be given priority. Currently in these (horse management areas), livestock are given priority," Fazio said.

BLM disagrees.

"The plaintiff wants to couch this as cattle versus wild horses, but there are a lot of other facts at play," Petersen said.

"The act does not entitle wild horses to better treatment than other" animals on the land, including sage grouse, he said.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

USPOULTRY members concerned about deal

July 13, 2011 By Julie Harker

Brownfield Ag News. So far, there is little support from U.S. ag groups for a one-size-fits-all federal cage requirement for egg production. The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association (USPOULTRY) – the “all feather” trade organization – says many of its members have concerns “about inviting additional federal legislation” that the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States are pursuing. Last week, the UEP and the HSUS announced an agreement to push for legislation that would require enriched cages with more space for U.S. poultry production over the next 15 to 18 years.

A statement from USPOULTRY says while the industry has learned that enriched cages “offer many of the same advantages as conventional cage systems while providing birds with an opportunity to engage in additional natural behaviors” – the farming and production of poultry and egg products “is already highly regulated.”

Meanwhile, Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs of The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in a statement this week that “cattlemen are rightfully concerned” with the UEP/HSUS agreement to “seek unprecedented federal legislation to mandate on-farm production standards.” Woodall says cattlemen voluntarily developed and follow quality assurance production guidelines that are updated on a regular basis. The National Pork Producers Council made a similar statement last week.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Landmark deal to remake how eggs produced

By Philip Brasher

July 8, 2011. A stunning, landmark deal between the largest animal rights group and the egg industry would change the way hens are raised in this country. It shouldn't be surprising that it's making others in the livestock industry nervous.

The agreement, announced today, marks a victory for both the industry and the Humane Society of the United States, which has been seeking to use a series of ballot initiatives, most successfully in California, to force some major changes in way that livestock are raised in the United States.

The egg industry has known for some time that the so-called battery cages that are now the standard industry practice would have to be replaced with something more acceptable to the public. But producers didn't want to go cage-free, as HSUS had been pushing, in part because cage-free operations require more and better trained workers. Cage-free hens also need more feed, further increasing production costs. The industry preferred instead to switch to a larger style of cages, known as "enriched colony" housing, that give the birds more room to move around and also include perches and nesting areas. (See photo) The deal announced today between HSUS and the United Egg Producers allows the industry to do just that and gives farms a decade and a half to phase in the new housing.

There's a big catch, however. The two groups agreed to jointly ask Congress for a federal law that set standards and a timeline for the changes, and that legislation will have to pass for the deal to go through. If the bill doesn't pass, "then the agreement would be off and we'd be likely to see more ballot measures, litigation, etc. Both sides want to work together to enact," HSUS' Paul Shapiro told me.

Most hens now have about 67 square inches of space in conventional cages. Under the HSUS-UEP deal that would increase up to 144 square inches.

As HSUS notes, such a law would mark the first time Congress has ever set standards for how any species of animals is raised on farms. No small achievement for HSUS.

The pork industry, which has tangled with HSUS for years over the way sows are housed, doesn't like the idea of federal standards for animal welfare. "It would inject the federal government into the marketplace with no measurable benefit to public or animal health and welfare," the National Pork Producers Council said. The group said it is "gravely concerned that such a one-size-fits-all approach will take away producers' freedom to operate in a way that's best for their animals."

Get some more details of the agreement here, in, of all things I thought I'd never see, a joint statement from HSUS and a major livestock producer group.

High court to review downer hog ban

Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2011 10:02 AM

Packer group says hogs normally lie down, law interferes with inspection


The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a lawsuit over California's ban on the slaughter of downer hogs.

The National Meat Association, a packer trade group, contends that the prohibition is preempted by federal laws that govern the slaughter of livestock.

"This is about clear standards," said Jeremy Russell, spokesman for the group.

Unlike cattle, hogs normally lie down, so it's necessary for a veterinarian to determine if an animal is actually non-ambulatory, he said, adding that the California law hinders that process.

"It directly interferes with the antemortem (pre-slaughter) inspection of swine," said Steve Wells, an attorney for the group.

The nation's highest court will probably hear oral arguments and make a decision in the case in the spring of 2012, he said.

Attorneys representing the state of California would not comment on the case.

The Humane Society of the U.S., an animal rights group that voluntarily intervened in the case as a defendant, sees the court's decision as unfortunate, said Peter Brandt, its attorney.

"The meat industry is devoting a huge amount of resources to be able to slaughter animals that are too sick or injured to even walk," he said. "This is about the industry trying to cram animals that can't walk through the food system."

Brandt said he hopes the Supreme Court will recognize that the state has a legitimate interest in the prevention of animal cruelty.

If the court rules in favor of the National Meat Association, that would make it harder to prosecute people across the U.S. for such abuses, he said.

California initially passed its law against the slaughter of all downer livestock in 2008 after the Humane Society of the U.S. released a video that depicted the abuse of non-ambulatory cows at a slaughterhouse in the state.

The National Meat Association filed a legal complaint challenging the law as it applied to swine and won an injunction that prevented it from going into effect.

A U.S. district judge in San Francisco found that the prohibition was preempted by federal law, which prevents states from imposing meat inspection standards that are more stringent than federal standards.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision last year, describing the judge's interpretation as "hogwash."

According to the appellate ruling, states are allowed to ban the slaughter of certain animals -- such as horses -- even if federal meat inspection standards exist for such animals.

A non-ambulatory pig is simply another type of animal that the state government can exclude from slaughter, the ruling said.

The National Meat Association disputed these findings in its petition to the Supreme Court.

California's requirement that downer hogs be immediately euthanized prevents federal inspectors and veterinarians from conducting inspections that are mandated by federal law, the group said.

At the Supreme Court's request, the federal government submitted a brief that generally supported the National Meat Association's views. California's ban places requirements on the operation of slaughterhouses and is thereby preempted by federal law, according to the brief.

Friday, July 8, 2011

United Egg Producers- HSUS agreement

From Keith Good at, Inc.

William Neuman reported in today’s New York Times that, “Two groups that are usually squawking at each other — egg farmers and animal welfare advocates — announced an unusual agreement on Thursday to work together to seek a federal law that would require larger cages and other improved conditions for the nation’s 280 million laying hens.

“The deal comes after the egg industry has been put increasingly on the defensive. Animal welfare groups have clandestinely recorded videos showing poor conditions on farms, and various states have sought to set more humane standards for hens. Egg producers have also been struggling to improve their image after tainted eggs from several farms in Iowa sickened thousands of people in a nationwide salmonella outbreak last year.

“The agreement was announced by the nation’s main egg industry group, the United Egg Producers, which represents farmers who own about 80 percent of the nation’s laying hens, and the Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization.”

The Times article added that, “The groups said they would ask Congress to pass a law enacting the new standards, which they said would be the first federal law addressing the treatment of farm animals and would pre-empt efforts in several states to set their own standards.

“The proposed federal standards would include cages that give hens up to 144 square inches of space each, compared with the 67 square inches that most hens have today. They would also include so-called habitat enrichments, like perches, scratching areas and nesting areas, that allow the birds to express natural behavior.”

Mr. Neuman indicated that, “In a statement Thursday, the National Pork Producers Council said that a federal law regulating living conditions for hens ‘would set a dangerous precedent for allowing the federal government to dictate how livestock and poultry producers raise and care for their animals.’

“Robert L. Krouse, chairman of United Egg Producers, acknowledged the difficulties ahead.

“‘That’s part of what we have to do, as United Egg Producers, is talk with these other groups and hopefully get them to see our point of view,’ said Mr. Krouse, an Indiana egg farmer. ‘We understand their concerns, but this is about egg producers, this is a solution that we’ve found for us.’”

Today’s article noted that, “A federal law would be intended to pre-empt state laws. But the groups said it would have to include a faster transition timetable for California egg farmers to match the schedule approved in the ballot measure there, which requires larger cages by 2015.”

A statement yesterday from Arnie Riebli, the President of the Association of California Egg Farmers indicated that:

“While we are still in the process of reviewing today’s agreement between HSUS and the United Egg Producers, we welcome the recognition by HSUS that the enriched colony system is a suitable hen habitat. California’s egg farmers have long advocated the use of an enriched colony system as a superior living area for hens.

“At the same time, we are very disappointed that California is not being treated equally as the other 49 states. While the rest of the nation’s egg producers have until 2029 to spend an estimated five billion dollars necessary to comply with this agreement, California egg farmers must comply by 2015.”

Philip Brasher, writing yesterday at his new FoodWatch Blog, reported that, “The egg industry has known for some time that the so-called battery cages that are now the standard industry practice would have to be replaced with something more acceptable to the public. But producers didn’t want to go cage-free, as HSUS had been pushing, in part because cage-free operations require more and better trained workers. Cage-free hens also need more feed, further increasing production costs. The industry preferred instead to switch to a larger style of cages, known as ‘enriched colony’ housing, that give the birds more room to move around and also include perches and nesting areas. (See photo) The deal announced today between HSUS and the United Egg Producers allows the industry to do just that and gives farms a decade and a half to phase in the new housing.

“There’s a big catch, however. The two groups agreed to jointly ask Congress for a federal law that set standards and a timeline for the changes, and that legislation will have to pass for the deal to go through. If the bill doesn’t pass, ‘then the agreement would be off and we’d be likely to see more ballot measures, litigation, etc. Both sides want to work together to enact,’ HSUS’ Paul Shapiro told me.”

And the AP reported yesterday that, “Threatened with a series of state laws cracking down on cramped cages, the egg industry on Thursday said it would agree to seek federal regulation to improve conditions for egg-laying hens.

Statement Of National Pork Producers Council
Feedstuffs. HSUS, UEP reach agreement to transition to colonies
Brownfield. HSUS, United Egg agree on federal standards
Brownfield. NPPC president says federal standard bad idea
Better housing for hens may mean higher prices for eggs