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ALDF Appealing Ruling over Mistreated Pregnant and Nursing Pigs at State Fair
SACRAMENTO — Today, the Bay Area-based national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and two California taxpayers filed a notice of appeal in a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California (UC Regents) and California Exposition and State Fair (Cal Expo). Cal Expo, a state agency, collaborates to host the fair with the UC Regents, which receives millions of taxpayer dollars annually. The lawsuit alleges that the UC Regents and Cal Expo unlawfully spent taxpayer money by transporting, confining, and exhibiting pregnant and nursing pigs at the Livestock Nursery Exhibit at the California State Fair (held at the Sacramento Fairgrounds July 2013) in violation of the state anti-cruelty law.
ALDF’s lawsuit alleges that nursing sows were placed in body-gripping “farrowing crates” for three weeks at last year’s State Fair, and were unable to walk, turn around, or stand comfortably. California’s anti-cruelty law, particularly penal code sections 597 and 597t, protects farmed animals by mandating adequate exercise for confined animals, and prohibiting their needless suffering. In December 2013, the Alameda County Superior Court held that newly enacted Proposition 2—which prohibits some forms of confinement but does not prohibit farrowing crates—supersedes the anti-cruelty law and dismissed the case. ALDF is appealing this ruling.
Farrowing crates confine sows while nursing, whereas gestation crates—which are banned for extreme animal cruelty in many states—confine sows during pregnancy. Last month, Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, announced that its gestation crate elimination policy will extend to all of its third party contractors as well. Tyson Foods, Inc., the nation’s second largest producer of pork products, recently notified its supplier that all new facilities should allow mother pigs the ability to “stand, turn around, lie down, and stretch their legs.” In late December, Safeway, the second largest grocery chain in the U.S., converted its entire eastern division to sources that use group sow housing, and will ask all suppliers to provide such plans by the end of 2014. The National Pork Board reports that many pork producers have responded to such policy changes by switching their operations to open sow housing.
“The American public is more concerned than ever about the welfare of animals used in agriculture,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “State laws and major corporations are beginning to turn away from the intensive and cruel confinement of sows—and Californians do not want to support animal cruelty at a state exhibition funded by taxpayer dollars.”
Copies of the lawsuit are available by request.