HOUSTON We ve all heard the industry slogan: The Incredible Edible Egg. Incredible could also be used to describe disturbing images recently recorded by an investigator from the Humane Society of the United States working undercover at the Cal-Maine egg facility in Waelder, Texas.

He found birds laying eggs for human consumption on top of the rotting corpses of other birds inside of their cages, said Paul Shapiro, of HSUS. Other birds have been trapped in the wires of their cages, dying of dehydration literally inches away from water.

Contrary to what the images suggest, Cal-Maine describes itself as a leader when it comes to animal welfare measures. Earlier this week, however, a lawsuit was filed, not against the egg producer, but against several state agencies.

That includes the state department of health, the animal health commission, state health services and the department of agriculture, said Carter Dillard, Director of Litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

The San Francisc- based organization filed the lawsuit on behalf of Texas consumers. It alleges conditions at the Waelder plant violate state code, which mandates that cages must be kept clean. The code also states cages can t be overcrowded, and that all injured, diseased and dead birds must be removed immediately. Citing a serious threat to human and animal health, the lawsuit says the commissioners of the state agencies in question have not fulfilled their duties to enforce the law.

This is not a duty they have the choice to ignore, said Dillard. It s not within their discretion to choose not to administer health and safety laws.

This is a very powerful challenge to the way our egg farms operate in the state and the failure of state agencies to do their job, says 11 News legal analyst Gerald Treece. But I doubt if they re going to wake up and say, holy cow, we should have done better.

We contacted all of the state agencies named in the lawsuit. By the time this report was filed, three had responded. The state Agriculture Department, the Health Department and the Texas Animal Health Commission all indicated they haven t been served yet, and as such could not comment on the lawsuit.

Cal-Maine, by the way, is the largest producer and distributor of eggs for human consumption in the nation.

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