Missouri Sues California over Promoting Animal Welfare

Posted by Kelsey McLean, ALDF Guest Blogger on April 9, 2014

Over three years ago, California voters spoke loud and clear about their position on animal welfare and food safety. Californians voted to pass the Prevention of Farmed Animal Cruelty Act, which bans any farmed animal from being kept in a confined space without room to stand up, turn around and fully extend their limbs. One of the problems targeted by this new law is the egg industry’s use of battery cages. A traditional battery cage can contain up to 11 birds, each spending their entire lives with less individual space than a sheet of printer paper. The cages are so cramped that hens often get trapped or impaled by the cage wire. Also, without the ability to move freely or extend their wings for months or years, the birds’ bones and muscles deteriorate.


Although the suffering that battery-cage chickens experience is troubling enough, it is only part of the problem. Studies have shown that eggs are the most common host of salmonella, and battery-cage eggs have an overwhelmingly higher rate of salmonella contamination than eggs produced more humanely. The California legislature, fulfilling its duty to protect its citizens from these dangers, extended the ban on the sale of battery-cage eggs to include those coming from both California producers and out-of-state producers.

Fast forward to February of 2014; Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit against the State of California. He says that banning the sale of battery-cage eggs violates the Commerce Clause, a Constitutional provision that essentially prohibits states from unfairly burdening interstate commerce by giving advantages to in-state producers that disadvantage those out of state. Missouri has an industrialized system for egg production that utilizes battery cages. Missouri also exports approximately one-third of its eggs to California. Now, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma have joined Koster’s lawsuit, deciding that factory farming profits hold a higher value than human health and animal welfare.

California is no stranger to these types of lawsuits. Courts have upheld California’s right to ban the sale of shark fins and to enforce stricter emission standards on cars, both of which would affect out-of-state parties. Agricultural producers also recently challenged California’s ban on the production and sale of foie gras, arguing that the foie gras ban violated the Commerce Clause. The Ninth Circuit disagreed and upheld the ban, saying that California held a legitimate interest in banning the sale of foie gras, and that the ban applied equally to all states, giving California no economic advantage over any other state. This is the exact situation that Attorney General Koster is up against in the current lawsuit. It seems difficult to see how Missouri, or any other state, can prove that the ban treats its egg producers any differently than California’s producers. Under the traditional authority of state law, California also has a legitimate interest in ensuring the safety of its residents by reducing the risk of food borne illnesses.

Instead of encouraging Missouri egg farmers to meet these basic welfare standards, Koster has chosen to spend taxpayer money to attack the California law. Let’s hope that the federal courts will continue to allow California to lead the way in animal protection.

23 thoughts on “Missouri Sues California over Promoting Animal Welfare

  1. Bridget Vest says:

    I’m on the “right” side — Caifornia’s! Greed always seems to be behind cruelty to animals as well as little concern for public safety. Stay strong, California!

    1. Eileen Pangere says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The dollar seems to justify all means no matter who or what it hurts.

      Shame on you Missouri

  2. Anita Ball says:

    California is on the right track….Missouri is wrong!!

  3. melina meysami says:

    Cage free only!!!!!!

  4. Florence Stasch says:

    Perhaps a warning on egg cartons, like warnings on cigarette packages, would deter consumers from purchasing eggs from other states. ie: Warning: these eggs were produced in Missouri and may contain bacteria that is injurious to your health.

  5. Marjorie Hass says:

    California is right. Missouri is wrong.

  6. Annette says:

    How dare Missouri try to interfere with another state’s potential legislation.

  7. Klara Larsen says:

    If they are not organic and cage free, we should not be eating them.

    1. louise says:

      It is all states that are at fault in this disgusting abuse to animals, since I became a member of Mercy for Animals I am now aware of what companies participate in animal abuse before slaughter and I will never again buy from those companies, such as Tyson Foods, Smithfield, Butterball turkeys and there are alot more. I also since finding out I have cancer eat only organic products, cage free, no antibiotics, no hormones which is helping me and can see why there are SO many diseases now then when I was a child. People wake up and do yourselves a favor, know what you are eating. it will depend on your good health or bad for you and your family’s. Those animals that are caged, are sick, have sores, infections and they are still sent to your grocers for you to buy. I don’t know about you but I have been fooled for too long and will not put up with it any longer, putting money into their pockets when they do not care about your health and well being!

    2. Liz Papenbrock says:

      Agree! The least we can do is give the chickens adequate room to move about.

  8. Hank Miller says:

    California is right on! look at Neiman Ranch, Cow Girl Creamery, Clover Dairy, et al setting the standard for humane agribiz.

  9. wahyit cheung says:

    It breaks my heart thinking about how a chicken could spend its entire life in prison. For what greed? If people only had more empathy.

  10. clara says:

    CALIFORNIA is deffenitly on the right I can’t wait until chikens become protected from killing all together if only we would understand that a vegetarian diet ia actualy good for us and killing any animal is wrong and sure we should not torture them before eating them,what a sad life for animals that only live long enough to only be tortured .we should learn from MR GANDY

  11. LeAnna Farmer says:

    Tell Missouri and all these other stupid states (and I am from Kentucky) to take their commerce clause and STICK IT. Iam getting so sick and tired of a bunch of money grubbing heartless bastards putting animals and consumers in danger to make a damn buck.

  12. Judy Budge says:

    California is right….

  13. Ellen Prior says:

    California is great to move forward for change!

  14. Ellen Prior says:

    I,m glad California is trying to make changes!

  15. Kim Bowie Sterrett RN says:

    I hope Missouri loses. California did the right thing.

  16. Glenda says:

    Missouri farmers are far more interested putting their money into legal hog wash than taking care of their animals and putting out a healthy quality product. Now the Mo. AG is spending taxpayer money to protect animal abuse!

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  18. Annabelle says:

    @Hank Miller & al – re: “humane agribiz”

    For God’s sake, that is THE most absolutely ridiculous delusion, these words together are an oxymoron. There is no ‘humane agribiz’and your ‘organic’, ‘cage-free’ eggs come from hens who may or may not (most likely not) have ever see the light of day outside of a massive barn, packed with thousands of birds. A bit more space may sound nice, but you are fooling yourselves by believing it somehow makes it humane for the hens or that it even makes it significantly better. IT DOES NOT.

    Male chicks are still useless since they don’t lay eggs, and therefore still killed in gruesome ways, such as being thrown into large bins and suffocated by the other male chicks on top of them, or being thrown into the grinder while still alive. Organic, cage free, humane, blah blah – they all kill male chicks – no exception.

    They also, like ‘caged’ hens, suffer ‘de-beaking’ without any sort of pain relief. De-beaking involves the painful burning off of part of the hens sensitive beaks, which ‘organic’, ‘cage-free’ are not spared from.

    Hens are forced to produce so much that they are physically affected by the loss of calcium. Organic hens too. Their bodies obviously cannot continue to produce at this pace so it doesn’t take long before the industry (yes, organic too – there is NO difference!) gets rid of them and starts the cycle over again with new hens.

    Before they’re even 2 years old, these hens whose production has slowed are now considered ‘spent’ hens. In other words; worthless to the industry, packed into transport trucks and shipped off to slaughter. Same as their ‘non-organic’ sisters.

    Same slaughter house. Same method of death. Some properly killed in the fast paced ‘assembly line’ system but many not and still fully alive and conscious when they enter the boiling water of the scalding tank they are supposed to be dead already when they enter.

    Your ‘organic’, ‘cage-free’, ‘free range’, whatever – means you pay extra for a marketing gimmick. It is NOT more humane. Stop being so gullible, you are not helping hens one bit by making absurd claims like ‘humane agribiz’.

    Find the website “Humane Myth” and stop buying into the shameless, deceptive marketing ploy that claims there exists such a thing as ‘humane agribiz’.

  19. Small pet says:

    I’m on the side of whatever is best for every animal. As long as they are safe and treated properly I’ll support it.

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