Gov. Schwarzenegger signs bill to require out-of-state egg producers to comply with Proposition 2 space requirements for egg-laying hens
Beginning in 2015, all whole eggs sold in the state of California -- even those shipped in from other states -- must come from chickens that are housed in a way that complies with the requirements set out in Proposition 2, the farm-animal welfare bill approved by California voters in 2008.
On Tuesday, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill mandating that all whole eggs intended for human consumption in the state be produced by chickens that are able to fully extend their limbs, stand up, lie down and spread their wings without touching the side of their enclosure or other birds.
"In other words: California will become a cage-free state," Humane Society of the United States president and CEO Wayne Pacelle, whose group heavily supported the move, wrote on his blog.
The bill, A.B. 1437, was authored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael); it received the support of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sierra Club California and the Center for Food Safety, among other groups, in addition to the Humane Society.
On its way through the state legislature, A.B. 1437 sparked a flap from the Assn. of California Egg Farmers, which said at one point that it would oppose its passage unless it was modified to spell out exactly how much space was required by Proposition 2.
The Humane Society scoffed at the Assn. of California Egg Farmers' complaint, and Pacelle referred to the group's objections as "double-talk" in a post on his blog. Pacelle was exuberant after A.B. 1437's passage, writing that "it would be hard to overestimate the potential of this bill to change the way laying hens are treated throughout the United States."
The Humane Society and other supporters argued that the bill not only promoted the humane treatment of egg-laying hens, but also had major implications for food safety. "It will also level the playing field for California egg producers, who are making significant investments to comply with Proposition 2, by holding out-of-state producers to the same high standards," Huffman said in a statement.
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-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Egg-laying chickens at a farm in Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press