After wasting 10 years, squandering more than $10 million in donations and subjecting millions of animals to years of preventable cage confinement, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has introduced a redo of Proposition 2, thus finally admitting the obvious: Literally millions of egg-laying hens are still locked in battery cages throughout California, even though voters thought they had outlawed those cages years ago by passing what was known as Proposition 2.
The reason for this failure, and the impetus for introducing a second ballot measure on the same issue, 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. These were not minor mistakes.
Far from it. Proposition 2, approved in 2008, was rendered useless by the most fundamental and glaring blunders imaginable.
• Never bothering to specify in the actual text of the measure that egg factory cages would be prohibited. (Prop 2 was promoted to activists, the media and voters as a ban on cages.)
• Neglecting to specify anywhere in Prop 2 how much space would be minimally required to comply with the law.
• Refusing to heed the repeated warnings of the Humane Farming Association, Friends of Animals and other clear-thinking animal advocates that, if left uncorrected, Prop 2 would fail exactly as it has.
PROPOSITION 2: TAKE TWO
HSUS president Wayne Pacelle’s response to this 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 has invited it to write a replacement ballot measure consistent with the industry’s vision for the future. That vision: Tightly packed confinement buildings providing only one square foot per hen.
UEP, which is the egg industry’s trade association, 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.”— Chad Gregory, CEO, United Egg Producers during a regional meeting in 2016 UEP’s partner in this venture, HSUS, has been considerably less candid.
It is going to great lengths to mislead supporters and obscure the fact that the egg industry inserted its own regressive standards, literally verbatim, into this 2018 redo of Prop 2.
This is what it would mean if this measure is approved by California voters next November:
• The egg industry would not only be allowed, but it would also be incentivized, to construct multitiered egg factories that provide hens with a mere one square foot of floor space.
• Although voters thought they had outlawed cages back in 2008, this measure would allow the egg industry to keep hens in cages until the year 2022.
• The measure would allow the industry to pack 33 percent more hens into egg factories than what HSUS promised throughout its entire Prop 2 campaign, as well as throughout the decade that followed.
• The entire U.S. egg industry would enter a trajectory benefiting companies that now use, or subsequently build, the very worst form of uncaged egg production.
LESS SPACE FOR HENS – MORE YEARS OF CAGES
To summarize, these are the certainties about the HSUS/UEP ballot measure redo. If enacted, millions of hens would suffer a 33 percent space reduction from what HSUS had always claimed Prop 2 required. And the egg industry would be granted additional years to keep hens in cages.
To distract from this outrageous betrayal, HSUS tossed in some language purporting to regulate the out-of-state production of pork, veal and eggs.
No one should fall for that. Even in the unlikely event that this constitutionally questionable language survives the inevitable years of legal challenges, the U.S. Congress is already advancing preemptive legislation that would render all such interstate commerce regulation null and void.
No amount of wishful thinking about regulating interstate commerce can ever compensate for the fact that this cruel redo of Prop 2 is a major step backwards from what voters intended. If enacted, literally millions of animals will suffer from this unethical sellout to the egg industry.
Bradley Miller is the Director of the Humane Farming Association (HFA).
For more than 30 years, HFA has been a leading voice against farm animal cruelty and operates the nation’s largest farm animal sanctuary.