The Superior Court of California in Fresno County has upheld Proposition 2, the California ballot measure banning the inhumane confinement of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves in cages so small the animals cannot stretch their limbs, lie down or turn around. The ruling is a result of the third unsuccessful lawsuit by some in the egg industry challenging the measure.
The court squarely rejected the claim that the law was unclear, holding that, “The fact that the statute defines confinement limitations in terms of animal behaviors rather than in square inches or other precise measurements does not render the statute facially vague.”
“We sincerely hope the Court’s ruling will put this objection to rest once and for all,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation for the Humane Society of the United States. “The opponents of Proposition 2 have had their day in court, three times now, and it’s time to get on with the process of transitioning egg operations to meet the needs of animals and the will of California voters.”
Previously, in a similar constitutional challenge to Proposition 2, a federal court upheld the law, stating that it “does not require the investigative acumen of Columbo” to apply the standards.
California’s Proposition 2 was enacted in 2008 by a statewide vote of more than 63 percent. It won majorities in 47 of 58 counties, including in many top agricultural and rural counties. The measure granted producers a phase-in period of more than six years to transition to more humane housing systems, and is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
Despite being at odds over Proposition 2, the Humane Society of the United States, the main backer of the measure, and egg producers in California and nationwide are working together in the U.S. Congress to pass federal legislation—the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, S. 820 sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and H.R. 1731 sponsored by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.—that would extend important animal welfare protections to the entire U.S. egg industry and phase out the use of barren battery cages over the next 15 years. A very limited number of farmers have begun to invest in enriched colony housing systems, which provide each bird with nearly double the amount of space as well as nesting areas and scratch pads so they can engage in more natural behaviors, in hopes that this legislation will pass.
“Animal welfare groups and the egg industry had a divisive battle over Prop 2, but have now come together and found a national solution that is good for animal welfare, the egg industry and consumers,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS. “With the California lawsuit behind us, it’s now more clear that California producers need to transition away from battery cages and that the Congress needs to pass a federal bill supported by all the major stakeholders—which would give protections not only to California’s 19 million laying hens but to all 285 million hens in the nation, and give egg producers a level playing field that provides stability and security for their industry.”
The HSUS was represented in the case pro bono by lawyers in the San Francisco office of Schiff Hardin, LLP, and the HSUS's animal protection litigation section.