It all comes down to one square foot.
After wasting ten years, squandering over $10 million dollars, and subjecting millions of animals to years of preventable cage confinement, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) can no longer deny the obvious:
Literally millions of egg-laying hens are still locked in battery cages throughout California, even though voters were told they had outlawed those cages years ago by passing what was known as Proposition 2.
The reason for this failure could not be clearer. It is due to the stunningly negligent drafting errors made by HSUS and its inexplicable refusal to correct those errors prior to putting the measure on the ballot.
HSUS president Wayne Pacelle’s response to the Prop 2 debacle, and to the years of animal suffering caused by his refusal to fix Prop 2’s fatal flaws the first time around, is not to go back and do it correctly.
Instead, Pacelle has rekindled his unholy alliance with United Egg Producers (UEP) and invited it to write a replacement measure consistent with the industry’s vision for the future. That vision: Tightly packed confinement buildings providing only one square foot per hen.
The United Egg Producers is the egg industry’s trade association. It has been remarkably candid about its intentions, even going so far as to openly acknowledge its goal of controlling and diluting the meaning of “cage-free.”
“It’s time for egg farmers to get involved in setting the agenda, especially defining what a cage-free system looks like.” – United Egg Producers
UEP’s partner in this venture, HSUS, has been less candid. It is going to great lengths to obscure the fact that the egg industry inserted its very own pre-existing standards, literally verbatim, into this 2018 redo of Prop 2.
This is what it would mean if that measure is approved in California next November:
And, as it turns out, we don’t have to wait until 2022 to see how tentative and fluid that date is. Just weeks ago, the Association of California Egg Farmers introduced a second measure that would push the date back to 2024.
Regardless of these ever-changing, never-arriving, deadlines – what each version of these measures shares is this primary function: They would each immediately legalize battery cages throughout the state. And they would each allow the confinement of laying hens with as little as one square foot of floor space per bird.
If either of these two rotten egg initiatives is enacted, hens would suffer a major reduction in floor space from what HSUS itself had always said Prop 2 required. And, after openly ignoring Prop 2 voter intent for all these years -- the egg industry would be rewarded with an ever-increasing number of years to keep tens of millions of California laying hens in battery cages.
The obvious challenge for HSUS is how to sell this toxic mess. Its strategy is to change the subject entirely.
For misdirection, HSUS is relying on some language it inserted purporting to regulate out-of-state producers of pork, veal, and eggs. It is very instructive to note that the Association of California Egg Farmers is playing the exact same game in its own competing ballot measure. That’s right. California egg producers are also claiming that they will regulate Iowa pork producers. Just as long as we all agree to legalize battery cages!
No one should fall for these tactics. Even in the highly unlikely event that these constitutionally questionable provisions survive the inevitable years of legal challenges, the U.S. Congress is already in the midst of advancing preemptive legislation (HR 2887) that would render all such interstate commerce regulation null and void.
In fact, drafts of the rapidly approaching 2018 Farm Bill are virtually certain to include amendments that would nullify any such provisions. In other words, the interstate commerce sections of the HSUS/UEP ballot measure may very well be nullified even before it is voted on next November.
The bottom line is this: In 2008, California voters were told that Proposition 2 would make battery cages illegal. Based on that belief, voters approved the measure by a landslide. There is every bit as much, if not more, public support for farm animal protection laws today than there was ten years ago. A ballot measure clarifying that battery cages are illegal in California right now would win. As would a measure clarifying that hens must be given more than just one square foot. This was proven ten years ago. There is absolutely no valid reason to capitulate on these issues now.
No amount of wishful thinking about controlling the behavior of out-of-state pork producers by regulating interstate commerce can compensate for the very tangible harm done if either one of the egg industry’s ballot measures is enacted.