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California wants to force Alabama to give chickens roomier accommodations — seriously

Free-range chickens living the dream
Free-range chickens living the dream

The phrase “cooped up” won’t hold quite the same meaning much longer if Californians have their way.

In 2008, voters in California inexplicably passed a proposition requiring California-based egg producers to provide either free ranges or larger cages for their hens. After concerns were raised that this would put California’s egg producers at an economic disadvantage with producers in other states, provisions were added to extend the mandate to any eggs imported from other states to be sold in California. The law is currently set to go into effect next year.

However, six state attorneys general, including Alabama AG Luther Strange, have come together in an effort to block the law.

Attorney General Strange and the attorneys general of Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, and the Governor of Iowa are asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to declare California’s law invalid and to stop its enforcement. They argue that California’s law is a violation of the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the Federal Egg Products Inspection Act.

“In Alabama, consumers are free to make their own choice of which eggs to buy at their grocery stores, and it is preposterous and quite simply wrong for California to tell Alabama how we must produce eggs,” said Attorney General Strange.

But Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said the lawsuit is an attempt to undermine “animal welfare.”

“State officials trying to curry favor with agribusiness interests are letting their political grandstanding trump their better judgment about the rights of states to make laws and about the wisdom of having some minimal standards for the care of animals,” Pacelle said.

AG Strange shot back that California’s decision to extend the law to other states has nothing to do with living conditions of the animals, but is simply an attempt to insulate themselves from the economic consequences of their new law.

“This is not an animal-welfare issue; it is about California’s attempt to protect its economy from its own job-killing laws by extending those laws to everyone else in the country,” he quipped.

Alabama is one of the 15 largest egg producers in the United States, with production totaling 2.139 million eggs in 2012, according to statistics from the U.S Department of Agriculture. Many of these eggs are sold in other states, including California.

“The citizens of California made a choice for their own state, and when they realized it would harm their egg producers, they made an unconstitutional decision to spread the damage to other States,” said Attorney General Strange. “If California can get away with this, it won’t be long before the environmentalists in California tell us how we must build cars, grow crops, and raise cattle too.”

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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