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Court Asked to Uphold California Ban on Cruelly Produced Eggs

Law protects Californians from unsafe and inhumanely-produced eggs

An attempt by six states to overturn a California law that requires more humane treatment of egg-laying hens and higher food safety standards will face legal opposition from The Humane Society of the United States. In papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, The HSUS is seeking to file a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that would overturn AB 1437, a law that stops the sale of eggs from hens confined in inhumane battery cages by the start of next year. The lawsuit was filed by Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the governor of Iowa.

More than 90 percent of American egg-laying hens are currently confined in barren battery cages, which are cruel and are breeding grounds for Salmonella.

"It’s just not appropriate to jam six or eight birds in tiny spaces so they cannot move,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS. “These states are trying to force their sub-standard eggs on California consumers, even though the California legislature has declared such eggs to be repugnant to the state’s values and a threat to public health.”

In 2008, a coalition of animal protection, environmental and consumer groups — led by The HSUS — sponsored Proposition 2, a ballot initiative to stop the extreme confinement of farm animals on factory farms by requiring that animals be given at least enough space to turn around and extend their limbs. Voters backed the proposition with 63.5 percent supporting it. California’s Legislature then passed AB1437, which requires all shell eggs sold in California to meet the standards of Proposition 2.

Proposition 2 and AB1437 gave egg producers several years to implement these basic animal welfare and food safety standards. But many egg producers have delayed transitioning their operations to come into compliance with the law, and instead have tried to litigate to invalidate Proposition 2. Three previous lawsuits challenging Prop 2 have been defeated, with two of those cases currently on appeal.

If these states succeed in their challenge to AB 1437, the case could hurt consumers in the plaintiffs’ states by making vulnerable these states’ own laws that regulate agricultural products for public health reasons. For example, Nebraska’s limits on importing eggs and poultry, Oklahoma’s prohibition on the sale of certain exotic livestock, and Iowa’s import restrictions on moving cattle with brucellosis all would be at risk.

The HSUS is represented pro bono by Latham & Watkins, LLP, and Schiff Hardin, LLP along with attorneys from The HSUS’s Animal Protection Litigation section.

Media Contact: Anna West: 240-751-2669; awest@humanesociety.org

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