Say what you will about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but if you were an egg layer of the hen variety, you might squawk a little easier knowing that the Governor has signed A.B. 1437, a bill authored by California Assemblyman Jared Huffman, and backed by The Humane Society.
The bill requires that all whole eggs sold in California as of Jan. 1, 2015, come from hens able to stand up, fully extend their limbs, lie down and spread their wings without touching each other or the sides of their enclosure, thus requiring “cage-free conditions” for the birds.
The bill, according to the Humane Society, is landmark legislation requiring shelled (whole) eggs sold in California to comply with the food safety and animal welfare standards of Proposition 2, which passed in a 2008 landslide, and phased out production of eggs from hens crammed into cages.
A.B. 1437 succeeded the passage of Prop 2 — the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. Nearly 64 percent of California voters passed Prop 2, which got more votes than any citizen initiative in California history. Prop 2 goes into effect at the same time as A.B. 1437.
“By signing this bill, Governor Schwarzenegger has taken an important step in protecting animal welfare in a way that will also improve food safety for consumers across California,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “Californians have made it clear that they don’t want unsafe eggs from hens crammed into cages, and we applaud the Legislature and governor for heeding this call.”
The Huff Post notes “the victory comes just days after The HSUS brokered a deal with Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and the state’s largest agriculture groups to impose a moratorium on new battery cage facilities in Ohio, the nation’s second largest egg production state.”
Supporters of the legislation include the ASPCA, Sierra Club California, Planning and Conservation League, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Bon Appétit Management Company and dozens of other organizations.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez managed the bill in the Senate; the co-authors of the legislation include Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, and Assemblymembers Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, Cathleen Galgiani, D-Tracy, Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, and Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana. As a state senator, Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado was also a cosponsor of the legislation.
It’s worth mentioning that A.B. 1437′s requirement for “cage free conditions” doesn’t mean “cage free”. Hens can still be crowded into large areas where each bird has no more than a one or two square feet of space in which to roam. “Organic”, on the other hand, requires that animals be given access to the outdoors, but “access” is not defined and the interpretation by producers varies wildly.
Farm Sanctuary, an advocate for the humane treatment of animals founded in 1986, has worked to standardize the innumerable labeling standards that exist for consumers who are buying “free-range,” “natural,” “humanely raised,” and “organic” products.
There are countless health benefits to both animals and humans in free range grazing. When chickens and cows are confined in small areas and their natural movements restricted, they secret adrenalin from stress — as well as other body chemicals — which lodges in their body fat.