Stay informed

Rotten Egg Initiative Would Legalize Battery Cages in California

It all comes down to one square foot.

After wasting ten years, squandering over $10 million dollars, and subjecting millions of animals to years of preventable cage confinement, the scandal-ridden Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) can no longer escape the obvious:

Literally millions of California's egg-laying hens are still locked in battery cages, even though voters were told they had outlawed those cages years ago by passing what was known as Proposition 2.

The reason for this failure 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 include:

  • Never bothering to specify in the text of the measure that egg-factory cages would be prohibited. (Prop 2 was promoted to donors, 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. (HSUS was adamant, however, that the law required nothing less than 216 square inches of floor space per hen.)
  • Refusing to heed the vigorous and repeated warnings of the Humane Farming Association and many others that, if left uncorrected, Prop 2 would fail exactly as it has.

Proposition 2 – Take Two:
Less Space for Hens — More Years of Cages

wayne pacelle drinks champagne
With millions of hens still suffering in cages, Wayne Pacelle, during 2015 “victory tour,” makes self-congratulatory toast for supposedly achieving a “Cage-Free California.”

HSUS’s response to its Prop 2 debacle, and to the years of animal suffering and consumer deception caused by its refusal to fix Prop 2’s fatal flaws the first time around, is not to go back and do it correctly.

Instead, its disgraced CEO, Wayne Pacelle, just prior to being ousted in a major sexual harassment scandal, rekindled his alliance with United Egg Producers (UEP) and invited it to write a replacement measure consistent with the industry’s vision for the future. That vision: Tightly packed confinement buildings providing only one square foot per hen.

The United Egg Producers is the egg industry’s trade association. It 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.”

UEP’s partner in this venture, HSUS, has been less candid. It is going to great lengths to obscure the fact that the egg industry inserted its very own pre-existing standards, literally verbatim, into this 2018 redo of Prop 2.

This is what it would mean if Prop 12 is approved in November:

chickens crammed into multi-level cages
  • The egg industry would not only be allowed, but it would also be incentivized, to construct multi-level egg factories that provide hens with a mere one square foot of floor space.
  • Prop 12 would allow the industry to pack 50% more hens into egg factories than what HSUS promised throughout its entire Prop 2 campaign, as well as throughout the decade that followed.
  • Although voters thought they had outlawed cages back in 2008, this measure would explicitly legalize battery cages until the year 2022. And when that year finally arrives, we can count on the industry seeking to push the date back even further. That is exactly what we all witnessed with Prop 2’s supposed 2015 “deadline” -- which HSUS famously assured everyone was ironclad.

And, as it turns out, we don’t have to wait until 2022 to see how tentative and fluid that date is. The industry is already advancing legislation that would push the date back to 2024.

Regardless of these ever-changing, never-arriving, deadlines — what each of these measures share is this function: They would each immediately legalize battery cages throughout the state. And they would each allow the confinement of laying hens with as little as one square foot of floor space per bird.

Multi-level “cage-free” egg factory.

If either of these two rotten egg initiatives is enacted, hens would suffer a major reduction in floor space from what HSUS itself had always said Prop 2 required. And, after openly ignoring Prop 2 voter intent for all these years -- the egg industry would be rewarded with an ever-increasing number of years to keep tens of millions of California laying hens in battery cages.

HSUS’s reckless exploitation of California’s ballot measure system is putting in grave danger a wide array of existing consumer, animal, and environmental protection laws.

The bottom line is this: In 2008, California voters were promised that Proposition 2 would make battery cages illegal by 2015. Based on that belief, voters approved the measure by a landslide.

There is every bit as much, if not more, public support for farm animal protection laws today as there was ten years ago. A ballot measure clarifying that battery cages are illegal in California right now would win. As would a measure clarifying that hens must be given more than just one square foot!

For more than thirty years, HFA has maintained an unparalleled track record of credibility and accuracy in addressing farm animal issues. HFA’s campaign against factory farming has highlighted the real-world effect of maintaining integrity and core values while pursuing animal protection.

It is these core principles that inform our campaigns and which will continue to result in real protections for farm animals.

Protect Farm Animals. Please Support HFA!