With the recent passage of a California law that will extend “Proposition 2” requirements to all eggs sold in the state (regardless of where they were produced), egg farmers across the entire country could be pressured into changing their operations according to the demands of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Proposition 2’s largest financial backer. Despite the implied pet-shelter language in its name, HSUS is a vegan advocacy group that’s ideologically opposed to any egg consumption whatsoever. The coming California regulations are just one step toward HSUS’s ultimate goals of eliminating all animal agriculture.

But while the new law is a win for HSUS, it’s also exposing the group to criticism as it pushes its fringe agenda more openly. HSUS is interpreting Proposition 2 to mean that all California egg farmers must go cage-free, even as one egg producer just spent $3.2 million to upgrade to bigger “enriched” cages. And as we noted in an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee over the weekend, HSUS’s ideology is now coming into conflict with veterinary and animal protection organizations:

The American Humane Certified program, run by the American Humane Association, took the position last month that enriched cages for egg-laying are indeed "humane." The legendary animal welfare activist Temple Grandin says these new cages are a big improvement. Enriched cages will be the standard in most of Europe by 2012.

The American Veterinary Medical Association also compares enriched cages with the free-range systems that HSUS wants. Judging them on various measures of animal welfare, it turns out that these cages offer several advantages, including lower rates of mortality and disease among the birds. Enriched cages also let hens express natural behaviors, just like HSUS seems to want.

In other words, it's hard to claim – scientifically, that is – that these newer cages are inhumane.

What's really at stake here is that word: "humane." HSUS seems to want a monopoly on it, even though other animal welfare-oriented groups – and plenty of scientists – disagree with its agenda. And that agenda is where the rubber meets the road: HSUS is run by vegans who don't believe anyone should eat eggs, regardless of how or where they were produced.

Read the whole piece here. It’s not too late for well-meaning Californians with buyers’ remorse to scramble HSUS’s plans.