AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage this week wrote to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) expressing disappointment regarding the tactics it used in an attempt to castigate publicly a Maine business in an effort to prompt an investigation.
“I am writing to express my disappointment with your recent media event regarding your ‘Request for Investigation of Shell Egg Production Facility in Turner, Maine.’ Because of the manner in which this was brought to our attention, I can only conclude you are more concerned with fundraising than you are about the animals involved; in this case, chickens,” said Governor LePage in his letter to HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle.
Prior to any official communication to the State of Maine, on Tuesday, Pacelle released undercover footage of what it says is inhumane treatment of egg-laying chickens at the Hillandale shell egg production facility in Turner, Maine. The State has no reports of food safety violations at the farm now or in the recent past. State inspectors are routinely present at the site constantly monitoring and testing for any increased levels of disease pathogens. To date, state records are complete and do not show abnormal levels.
“Maine can be justifiably proud of its animal welfare laws, which serve as examples for other states around the country,” Governor LePage wrote. “Perhaps you noticed that in 2015, the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranked Maine in the top 5 states for the toughest animal abuse laws (it has done so since 2006 when their rankings started). Better yet, how about this quote from Katie Lisnik, the former Maine State Director for HSUS: ‘Maine’s animal protection laws are ranked as some of the best in the country’.”
“Your tactics to try to uncover wrongdoing are deplorable in this case, but then again this isn’t the first time you have wasted money on futile efforts,” said the Governor. “Imagine the good you could have done if you used all the money (over $2.5 million) you spent unsuccessfully on the bear-hunting referendum to support animal rescues and shelters. It really makes people wonder about your real priorities.”
Food safety surveillance reports conducted at the state level (part of Maine’s SE Risk Reduction Program for Commercial Poultry Operations with over 10,000 birds) for the Hillandale facilities suggest that the eggs from the facility are safe for human consumption. This is ongoing surveillance, with years of data to support this claim.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has jurisdiction over egg-producing facilities of this size, and they employ their own inspectors, as does USDA. Egg safety at the facility is FDA jurisdiction, under the Egg Safety Rule. Maine’s Salmonella enteritidis (SE) monitoring program, which helps producers meet the requirements of the FDA’s Egg Safety Rule, applies to facilities with 10,000 or more laying hens producing eggs for human consumption.
Officials from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry are in the process of conducting an investigation into the alleged violations at the facility. “The Humane Society of the United States should have picked up the phone and called my administration instead of using the press to create uncertainty in the market.” said Governor LePage.
June 10, 2016