Judge tells the USDA to sit out California Proposition Two fight– Feds barred from using promo funds on ads backing agribusiness

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2008:

 

SAN FRANCISCO–U.S. District Judge
Marilyn Hall Patel on September 22, 2008 ordered
the USDA to stay out of the agribusiness effort
to defeat the California Prevention of Farm
Animal Cruelty Act, Proposition Two on the state
ballot. Judge Patel ruled that the USDA may not
legally spend funds collected from egg producers
by the American Egg Board to promote the egg
industry on television ads that may affect the
election outcome.
The American Egg Board is a an 18-member
panel appointed by the U.S. Secretary of
Agriculture. The two ads at issue suggest buying
locally raised eggs. They feature the same
spokesperson who appears in ads directly funded
by the egg industry which assert that Proposition
Two will drive egg producers out of California.
“A government lawyer described the ads as
‘neutral and educational’ and said they were
unrelated to Proposition Two,” wrote San
Francisco Chronicle staff writer Bob Egelko.


“Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Arbuckle said the
USDA could accept an order not to spend any of
the $3 million [allocated to air the ads] on
California advertising before the election. But
she argued it would be too burdensome to review
the egg board’s national advertising campaigns
and remove any California references. Patel
replied that the department was skirting the law
and would have to take any steps necessary to
comply.”
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schaefer
personally approved the $3 million expenditure,
Californians for Humane Farms alleged in filing
the case.
Even without USDA support, agribusiness
is expected to outspend proponents of Proposition
Two several times over. If passed, Proposition
Two would reduce the stocking density for caged
laying hens by 2015, and after 2015 would
prohibit raising pigs and veal calves in crates
that prevent them from turning around and
extending their limbs.
California production of pigs and crated
veal calves is almost invisible as a percentage
of the national totals, but California ranks
fifth among all states in egg production, with
approximately 19 million laying hens.
Proposition Two would therefore influence the
entire U.S. egg industry.
The USDA television ads were only one of
several campaign funding issues sending
Californians for Humane Farms to the courts in
mid-September. On September 11, 2008
Californians for Humane Farms alleged that “more
than a dozen major out-of-state egg producers may
have violated California law in connection with a
massive money laundering scheme orchestrated by
the No on Two campaign,” according to a Yes on
Proposition Two campaign press release.
“Two days after the Yes on Proposition
Two campaign filed a complaint with the Fair
Political Practices Commission charging that the
United Egg Producers and the No on Two campaign
were unlawfully concealing out-of-state
contributions,” the release alleged, “the No on
Two committee filed a 76-page report disclosing
127 contributions totaling more than $4.5
million. The report claims, incredibly, that
every one of these 127 contributions was received
on September 5-even though many of the
contributors are listed as already having
committed funds in a July 15, 2008 fundraising
letter distributed by UEP.
“California law generally requires that
all donations to a ballot measure campaign
exceeding $5,000 be reported within 10 business
days, and in the final three months before the
election requires that any contribution over
$1,000 be reported within 24 hours,” the Yes on
Proposition Two release explained. At least 17
out-of-state agribusiness firms donated more than
$50,000 in previously unreported funds.
AVMA statement
The Illinois-based American Veterinary
Medical Association on August 26, 2008 issued a
statement criticizing Proposition Two. Approved
by the AVMA executive board a week earlier, the
statement called Proposition Two “admirable in
its goal to improve the welfare of production
farm animals,” but asserted without specifying a
reason that “it ignores critical aspects of
animal welfare that ultimately would threaten the
well-being of the very animals it strives to
protect.
“The best housing environments,” the
AVMA continued, “take into consideration all
relevant factors, including: freedom of
movement; expression of normal behaviors;
protection from disease, injury, and predators;
adequate food and water; and proper handling.
Proposition Two would clearly provide greater
freedom of movement, but would likely compromise
several of the other factors necessary to ensure
the overall welfare of the animals, especially
with regard to protection from disease and
injury.”
Leaving wholly unexplained how giving
laying hens more space could in any way
compromise the other factors, the AVMA statement
concluded by repeating the agribusiness refrain
that Proposition Two might end up “compromising
the sustainability of production systems.”
Now headed by former USDA Animal and
Plant Health Inspection Service director Ron
DeHaven, the AVMA published the statement,
wrote American Journal of Veterinary Research
senior reporter R. Scott Nolen, because
“Association leaders believe the referendum,
sponsored by national organizations such as the
Humane Society of the United States…is part of
a larger, state-by-state campaign targeting food
animal production.”
“We are not taking a position on
Proposition Two,” DeHaven claimed. “But..we
want our members in California and the public to
consider these potential consequences when they
make their decision on how to vote.”
The California Veterinary Medical
Association board of governors earlier voted to
endorse Proposition Two, Nolen acknowledged,
“finding it consistent with the association’s
‘Eight Principles of Animal Care and Use,’ which
describe veterinarians’ commitment to animals.
This so “angered, frustrated, and
disappointed” some CVMA members, Nolen
continued, that CVMA agriculture committee chair
Michael S. Karle formed the would-be rival
Association of California Veterinarians, with
himself as president. “The group’s goal is to
become the principal veterinary organization on
issues affecting California’s animal agriculture
industry. Karle estimates the number of ACV
members at around 20 and ‘growing every day,'”
wrote Nolen.
The San Diego County Veterinary Medical
Association meanwhile joined the CVMA in
endorsing Proposition Two–a significant
endorsement, in historical context, because San
Diego County includes several major egg farms,
and was in 2003 hard hit by an outbreak of
Newcastle disease. A fungal infection deadly to
birds, Newcastle in 2003 spread from gamecocks
to egg farms. Acting on the advice of AVMA
animal welfare committee member Gregg Cutler,
several San Diego County egg producers cleared
their facilities of hens who might have been
exposed to Newcastle by tossing them alive into a
woodchipper.
Public outrage over the incident–and the
refusal of the AVMA to discipline Cutler,
extensively publicized by United Poultry
Concerns–helped to attract attention to the
routine live maceration of “spent” laying hens
and unwanted male chicks. As awareness of the
routine practices of the egg industry increased,
support developed for regulation.
Proposition Two partially addresses the
most basic issue, the crowding that enables
diseases such as Newcastle to spread rapidly
among tens of thousands of birds.
The editorial boards of the San Francisco
Chronicle and Los Angeles Times opposed
Proposition Two, but the editorial board of the
San Diego Union Tribune supported Proposition Two.
“Food prices would soar? We don’t think
so,” wrote the Union Tribune editorialists. “A
study by the University of California Riverside,
comparing the price of eggs from cage-free and
caged hens, suggested the producer price would
increase less than 1 cent per egg. Egg farmers
put out of business? We don’t think so҆ In the
end, Proposition Two is about the basic humane
treatment of animals, even those raised for food.
There are an estimated 40 million farm animals
raised for commercial purposes in California.
Every one of them deserves at least that much
civility.”
Battery caging abroad
As the California Proposition Two debate
raged, French minister of agriculture and
fisheries Michel Barnier told the European
Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare &
Conservation of Animals that he favors enforcing
a European Union ban on battery caging by 2012,
as the EU agreed to do in 1999. “I would not
like to see it postponed. That is the Council
position, that battery farming should cease on
that day,” Barnier said on September 25, 2008
British egg producers in November 2006
asked that the battery cage phase-out deadline be
extended.
In Australia, “Even though free-range
eggs are selling for more than four times the
price of conventionally farmed product,
consumption has increased to about 45 million
dozen a year. They now make up 22% of total
sales, even though they cost as much as $9.50 a
dozen. Battery hen eggs sell for as little as
$2.50 a dozen,” Denis Gregory of the Melbourne
Age reported on September 28.
However, added Seamus Bradley, also of
the Melbourne Age, “More than double the number
of free-range hens are needed to ensure that
every egg sold as free range is genuine. Each
day, hundreds of thousands of barn-laid eggs are
passed off as free range in an egg-substitution
racket that costs Australian consumers billions
of dollars each year,” according to Ivy Inwood,
president of the Free Range Egg & Poultry
Association of Australia.
Demand is so great and accountability is
so weak in the egg industry that “You can call
anything free range and get away with it,”
Inwood alleged. “Half the free-range eggs are
falsely labeled because they’re not coming from
genuine free-range farms.”
A similar fraud involving the sale of
conventionally produced eggs that were mislabeled
“free range” came to light in Britain in November
2006.
Inwood “has called on all Australian
governments to urgently develop a nationwide,
legally binding definition of free-range eggs,”
wrote Bradley.
“Any new laws should require that laying
hens be allowed out of sheds at first light,
have adequate space for foraging, and that all
hens should be reared as free rangers from
hatchlings,” Inwood recommended.
“Misleading” egg ads
Eggs in the U.S. are not commonly
mislabeled “free range,” so far as is
documented, but the Humane Society of the U.S.
alleged in a September 24 petition to the Federal
Trade Commission that United Egg Producers and
member companies that together produce about 95%
of the U.S. egg supply engage in price fixing and
false advertising.
In particular, HSUS charged, United Egg
Producers has published animal husbandry
guidelines that “maintain the materially false
and misleading impression that egg-laying hens
are confined under ‘humane and ethical’
conditions.”
HSUS also filed the petition with the
Justice Department, “which is already looking
into allegations of price fixing in egg
products,” noted Diane Bartz of Reuters.
The Wall Street Journal reported on
September 23 that the three largest U.S. egg
processors had received grand jury subpoenas in
connection with the investigation.
HSUS factory farming campaign director
Paul Shapiro and vice president for farm animal
welfare Miyun Park, who cofounded Compassion
Over Killing, enjoyed success at CoK with
similar complaints to the FTC alleging that
United Egg Producers’ use of the slogan “Animal
Care Certified” on egg cartons was misleading.
United Egg Producers settled FTC charges
by agreeing to phase out the use of cartons
bearing the slogan by April 2006. However, eggs
continued to appear in supermarkets in cartons
labeled “Animal Care Certified” nearly two years
after the phase-out was to have been completed.
Compassion Over Killing in February 2008 sued
United Egg Producers and the egg marketing firm
ISE America for alleged noncompliance with the
phase-out agreement.

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