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Federal Court Dismisses Koster’s Anti-Animal Lawsuit

A federal judge delivered a blow Thursday to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and the agribusiness groups he’s aligned with. The judge dismissed a lawsuit on the basis that Koster was representing special interests, and not the people of Missouri. Koster had sued California to try to strike down a state law that sets basic animal welfare and food safety standards for the sale of eggs in the state. 

In 2008, 64 percent of California voters supported Proposition 2, which sought to allow laying hens, breeding sows and veal calves to “stand up, lie down, turn around, and freely extend their limbs.” In 2010, state lawmakers and the governor enacted a law, AB 1437, to stipulate that shelled eggs sold in California must come from hens in housing systems compliant with Prop 2.  Both measures are set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

Koster enlisted four other attorneys general and one governor to join him in challenging AB 1437, claiming to sue on behalf of their entire states and seeking to allow egg producers to sell eggs in California, no matter how extreme the confinement of the hens and how bad the food safety standards are. U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller didn’t buy it, finding that Koster could not bring the case because he was suing on behalf of special interests, not the people of Missouri. She wrote: “It is patently clear plaintiffs are bringing this action on behalf of a subset of each state’s egg farmers … not on behalf of each state’s population generally.”

Judge Mueller also rejected Koster’s contention that he was representing Missouri consumers, noting that “the allegations in plaintiffs’ [own] complaint … point to a potential decrease in the cost of eggs … which may benefit plaintiffs’ citizens rather than injure them.”

Joe Maxwell, a former Missouri lieutenant governor and now vice president for outreach and engagement at The Humane Society of the United States said: “This ruling just shows that Chris Koster was not representing the people of Missouri. Koster was using his office—and our tax dollars—to bring a lawsuit on behalf of his big agribusiness backers.”

Wes Shoemyer, a former state senator and now president of Missouri’s Food for America said: “This ruling is a big win for family farmers and animal welfare, and a big loss for Chris Koster.  Koster put special interests ahead of Missourians in filing this suit, as he did in backing the controversial ‘Right to Farm’ amendment earlier this year. Hopefully this ruling will wake state Democrats up to how Koster no longer stands for our values.”

Facts

  • The California law in question, AB 1437, simply requires that all shell eggs sold in California come from hens given enough space to stand up, turn around, lie down and fully extend their wings. The California Legislature overwhelmingly passed the law, after finding that it would improve animal welfare and food safety.
  • On Feb. 3, 2014, Koster filed his lawsuit seeking to undermine AB 1437. At the time, the Kansas City Star’s editorial board noted, “Political ambition appears to be scrambling Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's thinking. The Democratic state official, whose sights on the governor's office are well known, is attempting to cozy up to Missouri agricultural interests by getting the state involved in a long-shot, chicken-and-egg lawsuit.” 
  • In a Kansas City Star article in February, Koster said he did not expect to spend more than $10,000 of Missouri taxpayer dollars on this lawsuit. His office then hired a Californian law firm to file this lawsuit, and devoted seven months of staff time to bringing it to trial. Koster has since refused to disclose how much money his office spent on the case, despite a request and a legal obligation under the Missouri Sunshine law to do so.



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