By most measures, David Kesten’s hens are living the good life.
“They can act like chickens, they can run around,” says Kesten, who’s raising hens in an old wooden shed in the open countryside near Concordia, Mo. “They can go out and catch bugs, they can dig in the ground.”
But most U.S. hens live in close quarters, according to Joe Maxwell with the Humane Society of the U.S. And he says that’s just wrong.”There are some things we should not do to animals,” says Maxwell.
California voters felt the same way, and six years ago they passedProposition 2, requiring California producers to provide cages that are almost twice as large as most chickens have now. The Legislature followed that with a law requiring that all eggs sold in California be raised under those conditions.
“Bill Donald, a rancher in Melville, Mont., and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says it would be a terrible precedent to get the government involved in keeping farm animals happy. Who knows what regulations might come next?
“It isn’t a very large leap from egg production to chicken production to beef production,” he says.”
It’s a situation that would have been unthinkable just a year ago: Egg farmers arm in arm with the Humane Society of the United States, in a political battle with ranchers and dairymen.
“We can’t have our farmers and ranchers at the whim of California’s voters, and that’s why we filed the lawsuit,” says Bruning. Their chief complaint is that their egg producers must either spend millions to comply with California restrictions, or face being shut out of that enormous market.
Don Nikodim with the Missouri Pork Association calls it “a clear violation of the U.S. Commerce Clause.”
Now, why would pig farmers care about henhouse restrictions?
Because when a huge state like California slaps restrictions on food it imports, farmers all over the country become alarmed. And Nikodim says this won’t likely stop with eggs.
“Logically, the next step is, we should extend our authority on how you produce pork to other states as well,” he says. “Then is it dairy, is it beef, is it corn — go down the list.” Nikodim is worried that restrictions on cramped pig stalls, called gestation crates, may come next. Blake Hurst, with the Missouri Farm Bureau, says if this kind of thing goes unchecked, farmers could soon face a mishmash of state laws.
“It’s important because of the precedent set,” says Hurst. “It’s not important because of how chickens are housed.” The egg lawsuit isn’t the first effort to try to blunt state-specific livestock restrictions. Last year, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, tried to amend the Farm Bill to nullify restrictions like California’s Proposition 2.
“We just simply cannot let California dictate to the rest of the country how we house hens or hogs or cattle,” says King. But a coalition of animal welfare organizations and environmentalists killed the King amendment, according to Maxwell.
“They couldn’t win legislatively, so they’re going to try a judiciary track to pre-empt state’s rights to regulate health and safety and animal welfare**: King amendment round two,” says Maxwell. Meanwhile, in California, egg producers are gearing up to comply with the new law when it kicks in Jan. 1. Jill Benson, whose great-grandfather started JS West, an egg producer with hundreds of thousands of birds, says many of them now enjoy nearly double the space they had before.
**PD: Let’s face it, HSUS tries every trick in the lobbying book to do anything it can because it can afford to do so. However, we don’t believe that HSUS has more clout than all the agriculture businesses combined–regardless of egg, cow, pig, etc. The thought of the eggies working with HSUS was definitely NOT the way to fix anything, as it would GIVE HSUS more ways to screw over our economy and jack up prices in food even higher. HSUS Prop 2 has nothing to do with safety or welfare of people. It has only to do with HSUS views on raising animals, period, even food animals.**
Jo Manhart, with the Missouri Egg Council, says egg producers had agreed to a uniform national standard with their old adversary the Humane Society. The resulting Egg Bill drew lots of support but ran into a wall of opposition from the meat industry.
“They did not want this deal to go through because they felt it would affect them later on, and I think it would,” Manhart says. “So, that’s dead.”
The death of the Egg Bill, and the King amendment, set up the current lawsuit in a U.S. District Court. And the ruling will almost certainly be appealed.
After all, there’s a lot at stake in a battle pitting state against state, and big ag against powerful animal welfare groups. The money involved could be in the billions. And that ain’t chicken feed.
PD: This “eggie” case is exactly that– agriculture (livestock/growers/producers etc) vs Animal Rights (aka AR factory farm,pm,and all AR slang) and it basically is farmers v HSUS clout. In the past, the eggie guys were very complacent and did not set up their defense properly and HSUS filed many lawsuits before the Proposition passed–with HSUS winning and then dropping the lawsuits. Thus HSUS was very prepared and the eggie guys were not.
Now the agriculture guys finally figured out, we gotta stick together (pork, beef,turkey,cows, whatever) and no divisive nonsense, no more in fighting and etc. No more weak “non planning.”
The moral of that story is that most dog and cat fanciers have not worked together and essentially fanciers are not fond of pet stores or commercial breeders. But when you really understand that it is not WHICH breeder (commercial, non commercial, home, store, etc) but simply that breeding itself (good, bad or other) is—- when taken nationally and state by state, is not much different than selling eggs or cows or horses or any other type of pet.
It all contributes to commerce in the buying, selling and distribution. It all brings economic transactions, even if done by A NON PROFIT. The Commerce Clause is a difficult constitutional area that is heavily debated; recently, the Supreme Court found that Obamacare violated the Commerce Clause because the government could not FORCE anyone to BUY healthcare. The government might penalize you if you don’t buy it, but it cannot force one to buy the product.
In the Prop 2 case, the issue on commerce is whether a state law which requires CA chicken producers of a product (shelled eggs) to house chickens “this way”– that is REQUIRED in California via Prop 2– valid, WHERE the add on [to the statute], later required anyone selling shelled eggs to California to meet the same Prop 2 level, was done so that all sources were required to meet the same standards, supposedly so that the law did not discriminate among the sellers (whether in or out of state.) Whether or not this is allowed in this fashion, is what the parties are fighting about, plus there are other issues.02-main
Essentially, the overall problem that HSUS created for the CA chicken people was one thing, BUT the real problem was not the CA requirement so much as the added-on later requirement for any other sellers to CA. Does the CA add-on to Prop 2, invalidate the entire Prop 2 as a whole, or if the add-on was struck down, would Prop 2 still remain in place?
Now at the animalblawg above, (AR)– it is somewhat argued that the welfare of the chickens is a legitimate state interest because it protects the health of people. Unfortunately for HSUS, there is no evidence scientific or otherwise, that this Prop 2 would do anything of the sort. We are aware that the foie gras decision was in the AR favor, finding that the only way seemingly used to produce such product, was to overstuff via force feeding.
Although we found the decision strained in the wording, we would probably tend to agree that if in fact the animal must be force fed by overstuffing the food through some tube, there is an argument that perhaps people could go without eating this type of food, however the court was narrow in its application as to the potential success of the Plaintiffs and did not find Plaintiffs were likely to prevail and did not give injunctive relief to Plaintiffs. FOIEGRAS_9e_circuit
Prop 2 was passed by voters BUT it did not apply to interstate sellers, only producers in CA is our recollection. The amendment later passed stated that any seller of shelled eggs to California must comply with the CA rule of having X square inches for chickens, etc. If we were to imagine nationwide, that the habitats of each type of livestock would be regulated by each state completely differently, let’s say for pigs, cows, sheep and the selling of such end products into commerce, then many producers in each state would likely not be able to sell their products to other states because of problems like Prop 2.
If we were to use non uniform laws nationally as to food products (from livestock) then basically the following example using haphazard, non uniform state laws, could create this problem: Imagine animals (let’s say puppies) could not be sold to different states because they were not in the type of environment that HSUS approved of– such as commercial kennels? If HSUS had its way, there would be absolutely no commercial kennels and there would be no “for profit” pet trade that involved animals, period. Fortunately, Federal law covers many aspects of livestock food production/selling [preemption] so HSUS is limited to trying to change Federal laws by directly lobbying or using the courts.
HSUS has already lost in the Supreme Court when HSUS claimed the downer cow law applied to pigs. The Court found Federal law preempted the downer cow law of CA that HSUS has in place.
HSUS also lost in the Supreme Court– the HSUS violent video law, finding the law was wildly overbroad and unconstitutional (pushed by Leland Yee who was kicked out of CA legislature March 2014);
HSUS also lost the Robert Stevens FirstAmendment case in the Supreme Court when HSUS got a District Attorney or AG to apply the HSUS crush film law to Mr. Stevens’ selling of videos on historical account of dog fighting in the world—not only did the crush film law not apply to the facts of the case, the Court found the HSUS “law” was completely unconstitutional. And let us not ever forget, HSUS lobbied heavily to have Michael Vick’s dogs killed, and then USED Vick as an HSUS spokesperson. The true colors of both PETA and HSUS are the same. They will do anything to get what they want.
This is why the lawsuit was filed, because the HSUS handwriting has been on the wall ever since HSUS could never account for the millions it took in during Katrina, and HSUS then conglomerated big time with the other large AR groups into one big ball of AR wing nuts, filing hundreds of state laws for about 5 years in a row and then HSUS got their own former attorney into APHIS, HSUS worked with APHIS (to ruin the regulations), which has now created a new Federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C. — HSUS has attempted to intervene–not known yet if it will be granted. We say doubtful.
As typical HSUS rules/regulations go, they used vague language purposely which could mean anything. Hint: HSUS usually has drafters do one of two things, or sometimes both: use very vague language, so as to sweep anything into the law, even things that would not ordinarily apply, or use very specific language, which is normally applied to the process used for those who must comply (such as cage must be 3.5 times the height of highest point with 2.5″ extra from point A to point B unless exemption C applies, in which case the owner must then look at Section A (1.2) and B (1.3) for further requirements, but if done during first legislative season then see Article F for the other Code Sections that may apply?!)