Should chickens living in industrial egg factories be able to get up and stretch their legs – or is it okay to keep them in cramped, narrow cages in which they can’t so much as stand up and turn around for their entire lives?
The state of California recently said chickens should at least be able to stand up and stretch their legs. Legislators passed a law mandating larger individual cage sizes for laying hens to give them a just a tiny bit more room to move, maybe even turn around.
But now six other farm states are suing California. The argument is that since the law protecting chickens was passed, the price of eggs has gone up across the United States. The attorney general of Missouri, Josh Hawley, said the California measure has cost egg buyers and additional $350 million since the law was passed.
In addition to Missouri, the states joining the lawsuit are Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah.
All of the attorneys general from these states are Republicans, except for Tom Miller of Iowa, who is a Democrat. Josh Hawley is also running for the Missouri Republican seat in the U.S. Senate.
The state officials that object to what California has done say it hurts the entire industry and consumers who are being forced to pay more for eggs. They also called the California measure a “job killing regulation.” Finally, they contend that the law violates certain rules concerning interstate commerce.
California officials say that allowing chickens more room to move around is not just more humane, but is designed to reduce the occurrences of salmonella and other diseases that show up in factory-farm raised chickens.
The lawsuit is a second try at challenging California’s chicken law. Last year, a similar suit was rejected by a federal appeals court panel because it failed to show that law would influence producers and consumers outside the state of California.
Animal advocate groups will be watching the new lawsuit closely. They contend that treating chickens more humanely should take priority over economic concerns and that most consumers would gladly pay more for eggs if it means kinder condition for chickens.