When Fox and Hound Legislate the Hen House: A Nixon-in-China Moment for National Egg-Laying Standards?
65 Maine Law Review 277 (2013); WVU Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-6
35 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2013
Date Written: June 11, 2013
This essay explores a unique Nixon-in-China moment in US food law. Formerly bitter adversaries the United Egg Producers (UEP), the largest US egg farmer organization, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest US animal advocacy organization, decided in 2011 to bury the hatchet and collaborate. The fox and the hound now seek national egg-laying standards legislation. Their détente provides a unique case study to discern how different audiences might react to such moments. Only time will tell if UEP and HSUS’s Nixon-in-China moment can catalyze a corresponding Nixon-in-China effect, where other foxes and other hounds, following UEP and HSUS’s example, decide to collaborate on other agricultural animal welfare issues.
Because of two curious contradictions, UEP and HSUS’s Nixon-in-China moment at present serves as a self-fulfilling Rorschach test in which any audience can see whatever it wants to see. First, UEP and HSUS reject uniform national standards for all agriculture. If national standards are needed for eggs, why not for other areas? Second, they support enriched egg cages, cages with greater space than conventional battery cages, as a national standard. In so doing, UEP contradicts their prior preference for consumer choice and HSUS contradicts their prior opposition to all cages. Is their collaboration — as both assert — altruistic? Or is it motivated by self-interest? This Nixon-in-China moment thus tells us more about the observers than the observed.
In light of our polarized political discourse, many Americans may pine for more Nixon-in-China moments. This example, however, demonstrates that even at such a moment, the discourse between multiple concerned parties is more complicated than simply saying, can’t we all just get along?
Keywords: Nixon-in-China moment, Nixon-in-China effect, overlapping consensus, incompletely theorized agreement, interest-convergence thesis, clucking theorem, UEP, United Egg Producers, HSUS, Humane Society of the United States, egg-laying, enriched cages, battery cages, Egg Products Inspection Act
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