For the very first time last Tuesday, criminal charges were brought against an egg producer for violating California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, also known as Prop 2. Hohberg Poultry Ranch was charged with 39 misdemeanor counts of Prop 2 violations and 16 other state anti-cruelty code violations.
An on-site investigation of Hohberg Poultry Ranch, based in Fontana, was launched in February 2016 after a January complaint to the Inland Valley Humane Society. The investigation revealed 28,000 birds were locked in cramped, overcrowded cages on the ranch, in which they could not fully spread their wings, as required by Prop 2. Decaying hen corpses were found in some cages with live laying hens.
“While we are obviously concerned about the health of our citizens, at the end of the day, we also have a lawful obligation to ensure that animals in our county are being treated humanely,” San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos told the Los Angeles Times. “The overcrowded conditions these animals were forced to live in were cruel. It was a horrible existence.”
Robert Hohberg is scheduled to appear in San Bernardino Superior Court on March 7. If convicted, he faces up to 180 days in jail for each cage size violation and a year for each count of animal cruelty.
This case takes place eight years after voters approved the landmark ballot initiative with 63.6 percent support and two years after the law took effect. The law not only banned extreme confinement of laying hens but also of breeding sows and veal calves.
“Ramos’s announcement of charges today should reverberate throughout the California egg industry,” writes President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States Wayne Pacelle on his blog. “And it’s my hope it causes all farmers in the state to get all of the birds out of cages, which would both meet Prop 2’s standards as well as meet market demands.”
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