A good friend recently brought to my attention news of a proposal in Congress to amend existing federal laws regarding egg production. As The Washington Post reports, “The animal welfare advocates who gave egg-laying hens more room to roam on California farms are trying to expand chicken coops across the nation with an unlikely ally — a group that previously had been their biggest opponent. The effort to increase cage sizes for the 270 million laying hens in the U.S. is a compromise bill working its way through Congress supported by the Humane Society of the United States [HSUS] and the United Egg Producers [UEP], the industry’s largest advocacy group.”
The fact that the giant egg industry likes this bill should lead one to pause, despite the Humane Society’s support for it. As Tina Page at Greener Ideal notes, “If the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 passes, the egg industry will have 18 years to comply with new federal regulations – under the watchful eye of the notoriously industry-friendly USDA – that require hens that now live their entire lives jailed behind metal cages with little more space than a piece of paper be given a bit more wing room and some “enrichment” goodies…. While the bill is supported by the HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, In Defense of Animals, Compassion Over Killing and the Animal Legal Defense Fund among many others, all well-respected organizations with the best of intentions, it is also opposed by many animal welfare organizations.” What are opponents’ biggest concerns?
While the bill would make minor improvements in the cages the birds are forced to live out their misery in, it would make it impossible to pass state laws actually banning battery cages. See, the bill bans barren battery cages, and sets a national standard that cages are acceptable. The HSUS and the UEP boast that the agreement gives hens almost double the space now considered industry standard. The problem is that means in 18 years from now hens will get almost two pieces of paper worth of space. Also, any more progressive state laws that have been passed by voters will be nullified by the federal law.
While the industry had developed a slick website in support of the bill, some opponents have their own website, which rebuts many of the industry’s claims and includes the following animated short video. Check it out.