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Food Safety and Processing Perspective

Terrence O’Keefe, WATT’s content director, provides his perspective on everything from animal agriculture trends that impact our food chain to food-safety related issues affecting chicken and egg production. O’Keefe has covered the poultry industry as an editor for more than a decade and also brings his experience in plant management and poultry production to comment on today’s issues.
Cage-Free Laying Systems / Egg Production

Humane Farming Association right about Prop 2 for the wrong reason

February 17, 2015

I don’t agree with many positions taken by the Humane Farming Association, but I do agree with the group’s president that Proposition 2 was a waste of everyone’s time, money and energy. Bradley Miller, president,  Humane Farming Association, said in an op-ed column which appeared in the Sacramento Bee, "Proposition 2 is finally being recognized for what it is - an empty vessel of false promises, wasted resources and squandered opportunity."

Miller goes on to express dissatisfaction that passage of Proposition 2 didn’t result in California egg producers being forced into cage-free egg production. He faults the Humane Society of the United States for this eventuality. He said, “The inescapable and heartbreaking reality is that, had Proposition 2 actually contained what backers claimed, California would be cage-free at this very moment. Instead, the state’s egg industry is investing in new cages, as well as modifying old ones. This obscene reversal of voter intent was made possible by the determined negligence of Proposition 2’s sponsor, the Humane Society of the United States.”

Miller went on to blame the vagueness of Proposition 2’s language for the failure of movement out of cages. “The Humane Society was repeatedly warned by the Humane Farming Association and many other animal advocates that the continued use of cages would be the legacy of Proposition 2 unless its fatally flawed language was corrected. At the time, there was still ample opportunity to make clear in the initiative itself that cages would be prohibited. At the very least, Proposition 2 needed to specify exactly how much space would be required per hen. Sadly, all those warnings were ignored as backers marched ahead with a hopelessly vague and utterly unenforceable measure,” he said. Interesting that when challenged by egg producers in court, a judge found the language of Proposition 2 to be understandable, yet I agree with Miller that it leaves too much to interpretation.

Miller goes on to vent about the Humane Society of the United States’ welfare agreement with the United Egg Producers, which led to the Egg Bill. I have to admit I enjoyed this glimpse of activist infighting; nothing like an ideological purity contest among true believers to provide a little comic relief.

I have to disagree with a couple of statements Miller makes in this op-ed. He said that scientific data point out health concerns for consumers of cage-produced eggs, but there isn’t any. In addition, he states that voter intent was for Proposition 2 to lead to cage-free production of eggs. Given his own acknowledgement of how vague the language of Proposition 2 is, how does one interpret voter intent regarding cage-free egg production from the outcome at the polls? Cages weren’t on the ballot.

Once again, I have to agree with Miller’s central point: Proposition 2 was a waste. I hope that everyone in California remembers that it was the activist groups that brought about this mess in the first place.

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