UC Served Legal Threat After Prop. 2 Study

    The Humane Society of the United States announced its decision to file suit against the University of California Sept. 5 after claiming the university withheld documents relevant to Proposition 2.

    If approved by voters in the upcoming November election, Prop. 2 — the Standards for Confining Farm Animals initiative statute — would attempt to improve how farm animals are confined by requiring that they have enough room to stand, turn around and lie down as well as adequate space to fully extend their limbs.

    The measure will focus specifically on veal crates, sow gestation crates and chicken battery cages, which are currently only required to have floor dimensions about the size of a piece of printer paper.

    “This measure would guarantee animals basic, humane protections — animals built to move should be allowed to move,” said Jennifer Fearing, the YES! on Prop. 2 campaign manager.

    The Humane Society’s legal actions are in response to the university’s failure to produce any documents verifying that a July 22 study published to show the economic impact of Prop. 2 on farmers and consumers was funded solely by taxpayers and not by industry opponents of the measure such as the American Egg Board.

    The study, released by the UC Agricultural Issues Center, focuses primarily on the economic changes California farmers and egg consumers would face if Prop. 2 was implemented and agriculture employees were required to overhaul their current caging apparatuses.

    The report goes on to predict a bleak outcome for the state’s economy if the bill was passed: “Non-cage production costs are simply too far above the costs of the cage systems used in other states to allow California producers to compete with imported eggs in the conventional egg market.”

    Humane Society representatives feel the study is an inaccurate portrayal of Prop. 2 because it fails to mention any advantages of the bill, therefore allegedly offering voters a skewed projection of its potential impacts.

    As time went on, Fearing said, the UC system not only failed to provide the documents, but also promoted “… the more hyperbolic and negative of the report’s conclusions.” The animal rights organization is worried that UC staff will withhold the documents until after the November election.

    “California voters are entitled to the whole picture — we just want documented proof that the University of California funded this study on their own, if that is in fact what happened,” Fearing said.

    University officials, however, maintain that the study was indeed funded in full by the university, and was not a product of any external interests.

    The univerity has explained their delay in fulfilling the Humane Society’s request as simply a period of time necessary to search for the documents in question and have continuously reassured the organization that the documents will be turned over in time for the upcoming November election.

    “The lawsuit is premature — we have every intention of giving them the records they’re requesting; we are not delaying for any other reason other than the press of other records we’re supposed to find,” said Steve Drown, UC Davis camp counsel.

    The Humane Society has not yet served the university with a formal lawsuit; the suit remains in Yolo County Superior Court in Woodland, Calif., while the organization waits for the university to produce the requested documents.

    Drown added that the popularity of the Prop. 2 debate has required university officials to advise UC employees to be careful when voicing their opinions on the situation to ensure that their personal views aren’t mistaken for the university’s official stance on the matter.

    “This has been a popular issue on the UC Davis campus,” Drown said of the Prop. 2 debate. “We have many employees opposing the initiative, but just as many in favor of it. We all just need to make sure those opinions are expressed as individual ones, and not ones representing the university.”

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