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California egg law: Animal protections versus economic interests, lawsuit filed

An industrial chicken coop filled with animals
An industrial chicken coop filled with animals
Courtesy of Creative Commons, TeachEatLove

A California egg law is causing a veritable chicken fight between animal protections enthusiasts and those more vested in the economic interests of farmers this week. The attorney general of Missouri has filed a new lawsuit requesting that a federal court ban a California law that currently regulates the overall living and space conditions of chickens and their eggs. Yahoo! News provides the details on this avian-based argument versus these groups this Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.

The California egg law is one set of mandated requirements that Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster feels should be struck down. The lawsuit contends under state regulation — which will formally go into effect as soon as 2015 — that the bill will prevent any eggs from being sold in Missouri if those eggs are conceived by hens that are raised in certain cages (cages which fail to conform to California’s updated space and size strictures).

In an announcement made this Tuesday, Koster is arguing in the lawsuit that the law violates the interstate commerce protections that are provided by U.S. Constitution, all of which serve to “effectively impose new requirements on out-of-state farmers.” Essentially, the California egg law issue has sparked a cross-country debate between those defending animal living and housing rights versus those of economic demands needed by Midwestern farmers.

"If California legislators are permitted to mandate the size of chicken coops on Missouri farms, they may just as easily demand that Missouri soybeans be harvested by hand or that Missouri corn be transported by solar-powered trucks," Koster noted.

The lawsuit filed by the state of Missouri came into the public spotlight this Monday in a California District Court. At this time, California Attorney General Kamala Harris has not openly commented on the charges.

Adds the press release describing the latest on this California egg law contention:

“But the Humane Society of the United States, which campaigned for the ballot initiative, said in a statement that states have the right to pass laws that protect the health and safety of their residents. Jennifer Fearing, the group's senior state director for California, said eggs produced from hens in "battery cages" have a higher risk of salmonella contamination.”

"Attorney General Koster's lawsuit targeting California's laws, filed just to curry favor with big agribusiness, threatens state laws across the country dealing with agriculture and food safety," added Fearing.

The lawsuit over animal rights and farmer rights has been called by the Missouri Farm Bureau President as nothing less than a highly significant “legal challenge.”