Egg-Producing States Sue Over California’s New Animal Welfare Laws

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Egg-Producing States Sue Over California’s New Animal Welfare Laws

States sell billions of eggs a year in California and they don’t intend to lose the market. As a result, they’re appealing California’s new Proposition 2 law which prevents veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens from being confined in cages barely large enough for their bodies. The new animal welfare law requires these animals be able to stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn around freely. Exceptions to the animal welfare law include transport, rodeos, fairs, research and veterinary purposes, and during slaughter.

In a state that consumes 9 billion eggs annually but only produces 5 billion, it's a huge market—so to level the playing field and combat out-of-state animal cruelty, California extended the law to out-of-state producers.

In a March 4 appeal in San Francisco, attorneys from six egg-producing states challenged the law, citing the state didn’t have the legal authority to restrict the egg market in such a way.

According to Food Safety News:

In an 80-page appeal brief filed on behalf of the states of Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama and Kentucky, and Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad, the appellants cite 56 previous findings of case law in support of their arguments. The accompanying amicus brief filed in support by Parker Douglas, Utah’s federal solicitor, includes 30 case citations of its own.

Since the law went into effect on January 1, California has seen a huge spike in the cost of eggs as demand is not being met. At the same time, it’s brought egg costs down in other states because eggs that can’t be used in California are being diverted elsewhere, causing a hike in supply.

Again, according to Food Safety News, "[t]he non-California egg-producing states want the shell egg restrictions declared unconstitutional and stopped from being enforced."

Since the law was passed in 2008, egg producers have had seven years to make the necessary changes to their cages before the law went into effect this year. Other states including Florida, Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon have passed laws to limit animal confinement. Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Austria have banned battery cages and the European Union is set to phase them out.

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Image of an egg-laying hen in a battery cage from Shuttershock

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