Cross-posted on the California Majority Report.
We knew the larger egg producers were desperate to kill Prop 2, a proposition that would prohibit battery cages. After all, housing six-to-eight egg-laying hens in a space so narrow that they cannot turn around or extend their wings may be excessively cruel, but it’s slightly more profitable for the 30 factory farms that control the bulk of egg production in California. It’s no surprise that the American Egg Board would search nationwide for the funds they need to defeat a measure presently supported by 63 percent of Californians. But illegally funnelling $3 million in federal funds to combat the initiative, as the Yes on Prop 2 campaign alleges? That’s one golden egg!
Yesterday, the campaign filed a lawsuit in federal district court, alleging that the American Egg Board set aside $3 million in federal funds to help defeat Prop 2, which would be a violation of 7 U.S.C. § 2707(h), which prohibits using the money “for the purpose of influencing governmental policy or action.” Sadly, it appears George Bush’s Department of Agriculture may be complicit in this action, so the USDA is also party to the suit.
“Agribusiness firms are already spending millions to defeat Proposition 2, and they hardly needed an illegal infusion of check-off funds authorized by the USDA to supplement their political campaign,” explained Humane Society president Wayne Pacelle “Expending these funds within 90 days of the election is a transparent attempt to influence the vote on Proposition 2. The egg industry and USDA had 49 other states in which to spend this money, but it chose to do so in California right before the election and that’s unethical and illegal.”
Regardless of how the federal district court decides, big money has already been laid down in this fight, and more is on the way. The largest donors to squash humane farming practices include Moark, LLC, “America’s premier marketer, distributor, processor and producer of fresh shell eggs and egg products,” which donated $289,234.60, Demler Enterprises and Demler Eggs, which donated $241,000, Gemperle Enterprises, which donated $216,287.50, and United Egg Producers, which donated $185,000. When Gemperle Enterprises last garnered this much attention, they were exposed in an undercover investigation by ABC 7 in 2006 for their cruel farming practices, leading to a landmark decision by Trader Joe’s to stop selling Gemperle eggs. But I guess you can’t teach an old factory farm new tricks, not without changing the laws that allow them to flagrantly abuse the animals in their care anyway.