Humane Society Presses UC for Prop. 2 Study Details

    The Humane Society of the United States revamped its legal case against the University of California last week, claiming the university still has yet to surrender documents proving that a study conducted at UC Davis in July that detailed the economic effects of Proposition 2 was not funded by any external interest groups. University officials now claim the documents do not exist.

    A firm supporter of Prop. 2 ­— the California measure that would improve farm animals’ living conditions if passed next week — the Humane Society has been waiting since July to receive documentation from the university that would validate the legitimacy of the study’s funding sources.

    “We are not trying to prove anything,” said Peter Brandt, an attorney with the Humane Society. “We are just trying to get public information — part of that being the source of this study’s funding.”

    The Humane Society claims that the UC study demonstrates a clear bias against Prop. 2, alleging that the information within the study downplays the potential positive economic impacts of the measure while focusing primarily on its negative effects.

    After reviewing the limited information provided by the university, the Humane Society claims that the American Egg Board contributed financially to the study and may even have requested that the university conduct the Prop. 2 research to begin with.

    Humane Society representatives allege that any funding received from the AEB to conduct the study would effectively delegitimize the study’s findings, as the AEB has a vested interest in seeing that Prop. 2 is not approved by voters. University officials, however, claim to possess no documented evidence of the study’s relation to the AEB.

    “We told the Humane Society a month earlier that we haven’t received any American Egg Board funding,” UC Office of the President spokesman Trey Davis said. “Such documents simply don’t exist because UC received no funding from the egg industry.”

    The Humane Society, however, is still requesting documentation detailing any other sources of funding.

    As a state-funded entity, the university is required by California law to release such documents to the public. The Humane Society has accused the university of failing to abide by these regulations, alleging that officials continue to withhold much of the documentation relevant to the study.

    The university claims to be protected from disclosing the requested information under the Public Records Act, which exempts it from mandatory disclosure of communication between university research teams and research teams associated with private enterprises.

    Davis said that not utilizing this protection could potentially jeopardize future research efforts.

    “Disclosure of these documents would have a chilling effect on the university’s ability to conduct research in this and other areas in the future, thereby hampering [the UC system’s] public research mission,” Davis said.
    The University of California is not the only public entity currently engaged in legal action with the Humane Society over Prop. 2. The measure has faced a number of staunch opponents over the past several months, leading the Humane Society to expand its threats of legal action as far as the federal level. The United States Department of Agriculture, for example, is currently facing a lawsuit from Humane Society affiliate organization Yes on Prop. 2 for allegedly misspending $3 million on anti-Prop. 2 campaigning. The Humane Society has also accused the department of receiving partial funding from the AEB.

    The case hearing against the University of California was postponed this week until Nov. 17.

    “If we can’t get documents from the university before Nov. 4, we’re not going to let it go,” Brandt said. “We’re going to keep fighting.”

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