Texas Consumers Sue to Stop Horrific Conditions for Chickens at Cal-Maine Egg Production Facility

Posted on December 14, 2010

State Agencies Brought Under Fire for Failing to Uphold Special Texas Law Outlining Basic Mandates for Protecting Confined Birds

For immediate release

Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Sign the petition!Austin, Texas–Concerned residents of Travis County and Gonzales County, Texas, represented by the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund, are filing a lawsuit in Travis County District Court today in an effort to stop the horrific abuses to birds and the human health risks posed by Cal-Maine Foods, Inc.–the nation’s largest egg supplier–at its chicken-raising and egg production facility in Waelder, Texas. Cal-Maine came under an international spotlight last month when an undercover investigation there revealed harrowing, clearly illegal conditions for chickens and a veritable breeding ground for human health threats. The three plaintiffs, who eat eggs and are thus at risk for contracting diseases like salmonella that can be generated at dirty and improperly regulated egg production facilities, are suing the Texas Public Health Commissioner, the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Texas Animal Health Commission for their failure to protect public health, public safety, and animal welfare in accordance with Texas law. Facilities with conditions like those at Cal-Maine’s Waelder farm have had their eggs recalled in the past.   

Video courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States

Why are Texas residents taking their concerns about the treatment of Cal-Maine’s chickens to court?  Texas has a special law protecting its feathered residents–Texas Health and Safety Code § 821.003 provides that persons who receive live birds for confinement must keep coops, crates or cages clean, must not overcrowd chickens confined in a cage, and must immediately remove all injured, diseased, or dead birds from coops, crates, or cages. This is in stark contrast with the nightmarish conditions at Cal-Maine that made international headlines last month when a four-week undercover investigation of the facility by the Humane Society of the United States revealed hens confined in overcrowded cages with the rotting corpses of long-dead birds, chickens drowned in filthy manure pits, hens covered in feces from birds in the cages above them, birds suffering from severe, bloody uterine prolapses, and eggs destined for human consumption covered in blood and feces.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief for an immediate stop to the abusive practices at the Waelder, Texas egg production facility, which violate state law and endanger public health and welfare. Because the state agencies named in the lawsuit are charged with enforcing the Texas Health and Safety Code–including its specific mandates with regards to the confinement of birds–the lawsuit also asks the Court to find, as a matter of law, that these agencies must administer the law statewide in the future–the same law which is being rampantly violated at the Cal-Maine facility.

“Texas law is clear in its provision to provide protections for birds kept in crates, coops, and cages,” says Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “The horrifying sight of birds at the Cal-Maine egg production facility covered in filth and crammed in cages with the decaying corpses of other birds is not only shocking in its cruelty–it is an affront to Texas law and a true health threat to consumers, who have real reason to be concerned about the safety of their eggs.”

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