California egg farmers squawk over Proposition 2 space requirements for chickens
When Proposition 2 was approved by voters last year, many in the animal welfare community saw the legislation as landmark for the treatment of the state's farm animals. Proposition 2 decreed, among other things, that egg-laying hens in California have enough room to stretch their wings fully, stand up and turn around. (Farmers have until 2015 to become fully compliant with the new space regulations.)
More recently, a new piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 1437, sought to even the playing field for California egg farmers who fretted that Proposition 2's passage would simply pave the way for more eggs to be imported into the state from other states that weren't bound by the humane farm bill. A.B. 1437, introduced by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), would require all eggs imported into California to comply with the space requirements set out in Proposition 2 by 2015. (A.B. 1437 passed a state assembly vote by a large margin late last month but has yet to be voted on by the state Senate.)
"There was a concern last year that all of a sudden there would be a flood of imported eggs from across the country to California," Dr. Bill Grant II, president of the California Veterinary Medical Assn., told DVM Newsmagazine about A.B. 1437. "If this passes, that would not be the case."
But California's egg farmers are still concerned, and they laid out their issues in a letter sent to Huffman last week. In the letter, the Assn. of California Egg Farmers called the language of Proposition 2 confusing.
Our colleague Eric Bailey at the L.A. Now blog explains:
Debra J. Murdock, the group’s executive director, said in a letter sent Thursday to Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) that they would oppose his egg-production bill unless it is modified to include specifics on hen housing.
Murdock said her group supports the spirit of Huffman's bill, which would require that all eggs imported to California be produced in humane conditions. But first, she said, California farmers need to know how much space to provide to comply with Proposition 2.
Proposition 2 sought to rectify situations which found egg-laying hens living in cages with as little as 67 square inches of floor space per animal. The standard described by the group United Egg Producers requires each bird to have at least 216 square inches of floor space in which to move about, according to the Modesto Bee.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Chickens in their cages at an Atwater, Cal., egg processing plant. Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press