If you walk into a store with a lot of fragile objects, you might see a sign that says, “You break it, you own it.” Although the pottery barn doesn’t have this rule, despite the common misconception, it is a principle firmly ensconced in legal precedent. And by the same reasoning, the fate of the potentially broken California egg industry is now owned by the Humane Society of the United States. Even if you’re not in the egg business, the scrambling and the disarray are worth noting.
HSUS was the major funder and promoter of the Proposition 2 campaign in California. HSUS pushed that campaign to require more space for egg layers in spite of research showing that the regulations could bankrupt the state’s egg industry—so said UC-Davis agronomists. Promar International, an agricultural research firm, came to a similar conclusion.
In short, HSUS pushed a campaign with the knowledge and obvious intention of driving the state egg farmers out of business. For every job lost in California as a result, HSUS needs to take responsibility.
HSUS might reply that it tried to get national egg standards that would spread the pain across the industry, i.e. the “level-playing-field” argument. That’s just a ruse. By increasing production costs for more farmers, it would simply spread the job loss as smaller farms with less access to capital closed because they couldn’t afford the federal mandate. There would be losses nationwide instead of just in one state—but that’s hardly something to crow about.
At this writing, we are now presented with the following playing field: The federal Egg Bill requiring larger cages hasn’t passed; there’s Prop 2 compliance uncertainty with an approaching deadline; and there’s the possibility of the King amendment passing in Congress, which prevents California from banning out of state eggs from farms not in compliance with CA standards.
If King’s amendment passes, we’ll be right back to where we were after Prop 2: With an HSUS law that was logically going to result in putting state egg farmers out of business. If that’s the case, farmers may move elsewhere.
But let’s assume the King Amendment doesn’t pass, and that the Egg Bill likewise doesn’t pass. Where does that leave Prop 2 and egg farmers both in California and elsewhere?
Right now, that still seems up in the air — thanks, again, to HSUS.
While a state court recently upheld Prop 2, rejecting claims from farmers that the law was unclear, it remains to be seen if further litigation will occur—from HSUS. Since Prop 2, HSUS has been dodgy on just how much space per chicken is required to abide by the law.