Two animal rights organizations are suing Cal Expo and the regents of the University of California in a effort to prevent pregnant or nursing pigs from being confined in farrowing crates in California State Fair’s livestock nursery exhibit.
The lawsuit, filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Humane ARME, contends that the practice violates California’s anti-cruelty law, which requires that confined animals be provided an adequate exercise area.
UC Davis has worked with Cal Expo to exhibit pregnant and nursing pigs in the livestock nursery during the State Fair. The lawsuit states that “the farrowing crates are so small that the mother pigs cannot turn around or walk at all. She can only stand up and lie down ... This restriction of movement deprives the pigs of the opportunity to engage in any exercise whatsoever.”
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Alameda Superior Court.
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Margaret Mohr, a spokeswoman for Cal Expo, said that as of Thursday, the agency had not been served with the lawsuit. She and UC Davis officials said no pigs have been exhibited in farrowing crates at the State Fair since 2013, and that courts ruled against the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s claims on this issue in previous lawsuits.
“At this point there is no agreement between UC and the State Fair to hold this exhibit, so it seems a bit premature to sue us about it,” Andy Fell, a UC Davis spokesman, said in an email.
He provided a copy of a letter sent Wednesday by Michael Sweeney, UC Davis senior campus counsel, to Christopher A. Berry, attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The letter says that Berry in a conversation with Sweeney “acknowledged that ALDF did not know if the State Fair was going to host an exhibit with pregnant pigs or whether UC Davis was going to play any role in that exhibit. For this reason alone, it would be improper for you or your clients to file a lawsuit based on speculation as opposed to actual information and reasoned belief. In fact, such a lawsuit would be counter to the information you have, because, as I informed you during our conversation, the university has not entered into an agreement with the State Fair for any such exhibit.”
Sweeney also states in the letter that the lawsuit is an attempt to relitigate an issue that was addressed by the court in 2013.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund says a previous lawsuit was dismissed on procedural grounds.
The current lawsuit says that the exhibit was closed the past three years due to concerns about the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. “These temporary suspensions do not reflect a permanent change in the longstanding practice of including a farrowing crate exhibit at the California State Fair,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit argues that there are several alternatives, including open pens, that would be less harmful to the pigs than farrowing crates.
“The California State Fair should be a celebration of what is best about the state – but the intensive confinement of pregnant and nursing pigs does not reflect our laws or the values of Californians,” Stephen Wells, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s executive director, said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “Using taxpayer dollars to fund an illegal and abhorrent exhibit is unacceptable.”
The lawsuit seeks to enjoin Cal Expo and the regents from confining pigs in farrowing crates or similar areas without adequate exercise space, and to declare it illegal for them to engage in the practice.