Six months after building the first Proposition 2 compliant hen barn in the country, local egg producer JS West filed a lawsuit seeking the specifics on what would satisfy the state law.
“We need clear regulations for hen housing so our company and our industry knows exactly how much space to provide for egg-laying hens and what type of housing systems will be legal,” said Jill Benson, a JS West vice president and family member. “We aren’t challenging the law but simply asking for the legal standards so we know how to comply.”
Prop 2 was passed in 2008 creating a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. But it does not state the size of the enclosure, the number of hens that can occupy the enclosure, the density or specify the furnishings within the enclosure.
JS West states in a press release that they believe they understand what is required but without a legally binding determination, it is simply an opinion that can be disputed after JS West spends an estimated $30 million over the next four years to convert all its housing to be in compliance with Prop 2.
The lawsuit is seeking a determination of the specific types of housing systems that will meet the requirements of Prop 2. Farmers need more specific housing standards beyond simply stating that “neither farmers nor their employees” may confine any egg-laying hen in an enclosure “for all or the majority of a day, in a manner that prevents” the hen from “lying down, standing up, or fully extending” her “limbs” and “turning around freely,” JS West states in a press release.
“The law raises more questions than answers, which is why we filed the lawsuit,” Benson said. “Compliance requires such a significant amount of time and money to be spent before the law takes effect that our family simply cannot wait until 2015 to comply nor can we afford to guess wrong.”
Before the filed lawsuit, JS West built a multi-million dollar enriched colony housing system for their hens back in June, which they believe is compliant with Prop 2.
The enriched colony housing system is compliant with the European Union standards with enclosures that are 4 feet by 12 feet giving the hens plenty of space to sit, stand, stretch and turn around.
“JS West is specifically seeking a determination if its new enriched colony system is compliant with Prop 2 so the company has sufficient time to convert the rest of the its hen houses prior to the 2015 implementation,” JS West states in a press release.
The newly built colony housing system also has perches, scratch pads and nest boxes that are fully enclosed for the hens’ privacy.
With the 2015 deadline soon approaching for all egg farmers to be compliant with Prop 2, JS West is hoping that their lawsuit will help find some guidance so that farmers have the necessary time to fund and make the necessary changes.
“No one wants to file a lawsuit, but California’s egg farmers and consumers need the State of California to step up and resolve the confusion of Proposition 2 as soon as possible,” Benson said. “If egg farmers don’t know what the rules are soon, there is a real risk that they and the jobs of the more 4,000 people they employ may be jeopardized.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.