Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s decision to join a lawsuit attacking a California animal welfare and food safety law may have far-reaching implications for a raft of state laws throughout the United States that protect agriculture and consumers, including some in Oklahoma.
Whether it’s setting requirements for the import of livestock infected with brucellosis or tuberculosis, for firewood infested with termites or for eggs from hens confined in cruel, barren battery cages that are more likely to carry salmonella, states have long had the right to make their own decisions. If successful, this suit could threaten state laws across the country— such as Oklahoma’s own state laws relating to the branding and tagging of cattle, making it unlawful to move livestock into or out of a quarantine area, governing vaccines given to broiler chickens, requiring standards for milk products sold in the state and banning the sale of horse meat for human consumption.
Why should consumers in any state be forced to buy sub-standard eggs, when such products are repugnant to their values and a threat to public health? Producers from Oklahoma and all other states can sell into California, as long as they adhere to reasonable and safe animal husbandry practices.
If Big Agribusiness groups don’t like differing state laws on egg production, the answer is not a race to the bottom. They should put their weight behind a more rational approach in Congress to pass the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, S. 820 and H.R. 1731. This legislation would phase in, over an ample time period, a uniform national standard for the housing and treatment of laying hens. Oklahoma officials should support the effort in Congress to set a workable national policy — not a lawsuit seeking to eliminate minimal animal care standards altogether.
Humane Society Legislative Fund