California egg farmers file Prop 2 suit

Published on: Dec 17, 2012

The Association of California Egg Farmers (ACEF) has asked a California court to enjoin enforcement of the law that the state's voters approved in 2008 regarding housing for hens and other farm animals.

The law, which was listed on the 2008 ballot as Proposition 2, or "Prop 2," requires that all farm animals, "for all or the majority of any day," not be confined or tethered in a manner that prevents them from lying or sitting down, standing up, turning around or fully extending their limbs without touching another animal or an enclosure such as a cage or stall.

Prop 2, which passed with 63.5% of the statewide vote, becomes effective Jan. 1, 2015 (Feedstuffs, Nov. 10, 2008).

In its court filing, ACEF said the Prop 2 language clearly means that California egg producers must change the kind of housing that they currently have in place, i.e., conventional cage housing, but provides "no ascertainable guidance" as to acceptable densities and dimensions of the enclosures that should be adopted.

ACEF noted that the California egg industry houses 19 million hens and that egg producers will need to remodel or replace their housing within the next two years at an estimated cost of $400 million.

Without any specification as to Prop 2's requirements, it's "untenable" for producers to arrange for that financing and make that investment, ACEF said.

Accordingly, to avoid what could be wasted spending, as well as potential criminal prosecution and fines, many producers will likely close down their farms, forcing the euthanasia of millions of hens. "The continued viability of the California egg industry is in jeopardy," according to the organization.

Prop 2 carries penalties of up to 120 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000 per violation.

ACEF referred the court to pending federal legislation that would establish a national standard for hen housing with specific density and space per bird. The legislation is being pursued by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers through a joint agreement (Feedstuffs, July 11, 2011).

HSUS was the main proponent of Prop 2.

Two earlier California court challenges to Prop 2 have failed.

ACEF filed its complaint in the Fresno County Court and named California Attorney General Kamala Harris as defendant.