Confined with the amount of space about the size of a piece of notebook paper to live in for their entire lives, the existence of egg-laying hens is nothing short of miserable. While many consider this extreme confinement to be inhumane, it’s the sad reality for about 6 million egg-laying hens in Washington state.
Washingtonians for Humane Farms, a coalition of groups with backgrounds in animal welfare, food safety, the environment and farming, is currently gathering signatures to put an initiative on the state ballot that would implement a cage-free system that allows hens enough room to turn around and stretch freely with the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, which has been given the number I-1130.
However, another bill, SB 5487, has already been introduced by Sen. Mark Schoesler and just passed the Washington House of Representatives. Under this bill, egg producers would be required to phase out current cages to slightly bigger cages by 2026. Guidelines will be based on recommendations made by the United Egg Producers (UEP), which happily promotes extreme confinement.
Numerous investigations of UEP approved farms have shown the horrors of extreme confinement, including one by Mercy for Animals at Quality of Egg New England. The footage is sickening and may be enough to turn someone off of eggs forever, but again, they were meeting “standards.”
“It is cruel and inhumane to cram animals into cages so small that they can barely move,” stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS. “These factory farms put so many at risk – animals, consumers, neighbors, and family farmers. There is an alternative, cage-free production, and this ballot measure allows us to move in that direction in an extended but set time frame.”
I-1130, by contrast, would implement changes by 2018 and would require all eggs produced in the state and elsewhere to meet to the required production restrictions with the exception of liquid or dried egg products.
“Like all animals, farm animals have feelings and they deserve to be protected from cruelty,” said Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder of Farm Sanctuary.
Even if SB 5487 does pass, they will continue to gather more than 300,000 signatures by July to bring this issue to voters.
Note: Even with more space and freedom to move commercial egg production will never be truly humane. Despite having “certified humane” programs and labels, hens at battery, cage-free and free-range farms come from hatcheries, where after chicks are sexed all of the males are destroyed. Some of them get tossed in the trash to be crushed and suffocated by each other, while others are ground up alive. Additionally, they all undergo standard practices of debeaking and force molting, where they’re starved for about two weeks to trick their bodies into starting another egg laying cycle only to be killed at a fraction of their lifespan because they are no longer useful.
Photo Credit: Twyla Francois/CETFA.