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June 13, 2011

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Rules in The HSUS’ Favor and Against Bob Evans in Dispute over Animal Cruelty Proposal

SEC Rules that Restaurant Chain Must Allow Shareholders to Vote on HSUS Proposal

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued a ruling against Columbus, Ohio-based Bob Evans Farms requiring the company to allow its shareholders to vote on a proposal submitted by The Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS’ proposal encourages Bob Evans to begin phasing in eggs from hens not confined in tiny, barren cages so small the animals can’t even spread their wings.

Bob Evans unsuccessfully petitioned the SEC for permission to block The HSUS’ shareholder proposal from being voted on at its shareholder meeting this fall. The HSUS’ farm animal protection and legal teams responded to the company’s flawed petition to the SEC challenging the merits of the company’s petition to exclude the proposal. The SEC agreed with The HSUS and ruled in the organization’s favor.

In denying Bob Evans’ request to prevent the proposal from being presented to shareholders the SEC was unequivocal, stating four times in its ruling the Commission was “unable to concur” with Bob Evans and did not “believe that Bob Evans Farms may omit the proposal or portions of the [proposal] from its proxy materials.”

“In our view, the proposal focuses on the significant policy issue of the humane treatment of animals,” SEC Special Counsel Raymond A. Be, explained in the Commission’s ruling. “Bob Evans Farms’ practices and policies do not compare favorably with the guidelines of the proposal.”

“Shareholders have a right to know that all the eggs sold at Bob Evans come from hens who live miserable lives crammed inside cages,” said Josh Balk, director of corporate policy for The HSUS’ farm animal protection campaign. “It’s time for Bob Evans to take a meaningful and practical step in the right direction by phasing in cage-free eggs.”

Across the country, a national movement on these issues has taken root: McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Sonic, Wendy's, Arby’s, Denny's, Carl's Jr., Hardee's, Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral, Kraft Food, General Mills and Sara Lee are just some of the companies that use cage-free eggs; Hellmann's mayonnaise has started converting all of the 350 million eggs it uses in the U.S. to cage-free; and Wal-Mart's and Costco's private brand eggs are exclusively cage-free.

Michigan and California have passed laws to outlaw battery cage confinement of hens, and similar legislation is pending elsewhere. California enacted a law that requires all whole eggs sold statewide to be battery cage-free by 2015.

Facts

  • U.S. factory farms confine about 280 million hens in cages so small, they can't even spread their wings. Extensive scientific research confirms this causes suffering.
  • Cage-free hens generally have two to three times more space per bird than caged hens. Cage-free hens may not be able to go outside and, like caged hens, may have parts of their beaks cut off, but they can walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests—all behaviors permanently denied to hens crammed into cages.
  • Factory farming is a major social issue: A study by food industry consultancy, Technomic, ranked animal welfare as the third-most important social issue to restaurant patrons; an American Farm Bureau-funded report found that 89 percent of Americans believe that food companies that require their suppliers to treat farm animals better are doing the right thing.

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Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching “HumaneTV” in the App Store.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization—backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty—on the web at humanesociety.org.

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