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California Suit by HSUS Aims to Ease Confinement of Egg-Laying Hens
by karen dawn
Thursday Feb 2nd, 2006 2:58 PM
DawnWatch: "Suit Aims to Ease Confinement of Egg-Laying Hens" -- LA Times 2/1/06
The plight of egg laying hens continues to make major news. A lengthy lead story in the Wednesday, February 1, Los Angeles Times is headed, "Suit Aims to Ease Confinement of Egg-Laying Hens; The Humane Society wants the state to discourage keeping birds in tiny cages by killing a tax break. Egg sellers defend practice." (By Carla Hall, Pg B2).

It opens:
"In an ongoing campaign to unfetter the caged hen, the Humane Society of the United States plans to file a lawsuit in California today challenging a partial sales tax break for agricultural producers who purchase cages that animal welfare activists consider cruel and torturous.

"Humane Society officials contend in their suit, a draft of which was obtained by The Times, that the use of so-called 'battery' cages to confine egg-laying hens to a floor area smaller than a sheet of 8 1/2 by 11-inch paper violates California's laws against animal cruelty."

Hall writes:
"As consumer consciousness has been raised about veal calves immobilized in crates and foie gras ducks force-fed with tubes down their throats, so the plight of the country's 300 million egg-laying hens — 95% of which can barely move in their cages — has come to the fore."

There are strong quotes from animal advocates. HSUS's Paul Shapiro says:
"Battery cage eggs are becoming the next veal."

And Farm Sanctuary's Gene Bauston says: "Battery cages are among the cruelest factory farming systems in place today. The hens are packed in these wire cages. They can't stretch their wings, they can't walk, they can't exercise."

The article tells us, "The lawsuit asks the court to take away egg producers' 5.25% sales tax break on the purchase of cages because they violate the California penal code law against keeping an animal in a confined space without offering an adequate exercise space.

"It doesn't ask the court to outlaw the cages." Humane Society attorney Jonathan Lovvorn says, "It's not our goal to run out and start arresting people. We want the state to discourage rather than encourage this behavior."

Indeed that is a start, though perhaps a slow one considering so many countries have banned battery cages on grounds of cruelty. One can only hope it is a first step towards a ban. But then, as I wrote yesterday, even a battery cage ban does not protect hens from cruelty. In California they may be disposed of by the cheapest means available. (See for a Los Angeles Times op-ed about a case in which a farmer fed 30,000 live hens into a woodchipper and was not prosecuted.) However the lawsuit brings publicity to the suffering of egg-laying hens, and gives us an opportunity to keep the issue in the news with letters to the editor. Please write in support of the legislation and/or in support of plant-based diets.

You can read the full article on line at:

The Los Angeles Times takes letters at letters [at]

Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Shorter letters are more likely to be published.

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at If you forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts, please do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this tag line.)

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