San Bernardino County law enforcement authorities today charged Hohberg Poultry Ranch in Ontario, California, with 39 counts of violating the state’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, along with 16 other criminal counts of violating the state’s cruelty code. This is the first time charges have been brought against an egg farm for violating the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, also known as Proposition 2, the ballot measure which passed in 2008 with 63.5 percent support. In 2008, in one of the most famous farm animal welfare cases ever, the San Bernardino District Attorney, Michael Ramos, also conducted a landmark prosecution of a slaughter plant that was mishandling and slaughtering downer cows whose meat was distributed to school kids in 50 states.
The voter-approved law requires that each egg-laying hen must be able to fully spread her wings without touching another animal or the side of an enclosure. A February 10, 2016 on-site investigation jointly conducted by the San Bernardino County District Attorney Office, The Humane Society of the United States, Inland Valley Humane Society, and the Ontario Police Department, revealed birds locked in cramped, overcrowded cages in which they could not fully spread their wings. Decaying corpses were also found on the site, including in cages with live birds laying eggs for human consumption.
“We commend the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office for honoring the rule of law and for properly enforcing California statutes protecting farm animals and consumers,” stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “California voters made their will clear with Prop 2, and California egg producers must adopt housing systems to comply with the law. What we saw at this factory farm was a gross violation of Prop 2 now more than eight years after voters approved it.”
The Humane Society of the United States points out that with 200 major food retailers – from Walmart to McDonald’s to IHOP – pledging to buy cage-free, there exists a huge array of food retailers that will buy eggs from California producers complying with the law. With the marketplace moving so decisively toward cage-free, there’s really no debate about the future of egg production in California or any other state.
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