The Norman Transcript

Opinion

March 27, 2014

Why defend abusive farming practice?

NORMAN — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has decided to involve the Sooner state in a lawsuit that defends the worst abuse of animals known to industrial farming, despite the fact that he is almost certain to lose.

Some background: In 2010, California’s legislature passed a law that prohibits the sale of eggs from hens confined in barren battery cages. Battery cages are small wire cages where the vast majority of laying hens in the United States spend their entire lives. Each cage confines four-to-seven hens, and each hen has no more than 76 square inches of space, which is about 20 percent less than a standard sheet of printer paper.

Battery cages are so abusive of animals that they have been outlawed across the European Union and condemned by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which included former Kansas Gov. John Carlin and former Secretary of Agriculture and House Agriculture Committee Chair Dan Glickman.

Physically, the animals’ muscles and bones waste away from lack of use. Some birds’ skeletal systems become so weak that their spinal cords deteriorate and they become paralyzed in the cages, an outcome so common that the industry has a term for it: “cage fatigue.”

Mentally, the animals are destroyed, as well. At my organization, we provide life-long care to farm animals who have come from a variety of systems. Battery cage hens show all the signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a predictable result of the damage done by life-long confinement.

So California citizens banned these horribly cruel production systems for use in California, with more votes than any other ballot initiative in California history. And California’s legislature did the will of its citizens by banning the sale of eggs from hens who are similarly confined.

Enter Missouri Attorney General and Gubernatorial hopeful Chris Koster, who challenged the law last month, saving the egg industry as much as $20 million, according to the agricultural journal Feedstuffs. 

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