Today, a historic agreement was reached between the United Egg Producers (UEP), the industry’s trade association, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to support federal legislation that would protect an estimated 280 million egg-laying hens in the U.S.
The proposed legislation would transition hens from standard battery cages to enriched colony housing that would offer them the opportunity to enjoy nesting boxes, perches, scratching areas and enough space to stretch, move around and engage in natural behaviors.
“Currently, the majority of birds are each provided 67 square inches of space, with roughly 50 million receiving 48 square inches. The proposed phase-in would culminate with hens nationwide being provided a minimum of 124 – 144 square inches of space,” according to a joint statement.
It would also prohibit force molting by withholding food and water, require AVMA approved standards for euthanasia, prohibit excessive ammonia in facilities and require standardized labeling on egg-cartons so consumers know exactly what they’re buying. Additionally, it would prevent the sales of eggs and egg products that don’t meet these standards. If passed, it would take effect next June and become fully implemented by 2029.
“This is the first federal legislation in U.S. history that protects animals on farms, the first to protect farmed birds, and the first animal welfare legislation affecting farmed animals in more than 30 years,” stated to Farm Sanctuary.
“America’s egg producers have continually worked to improve animal welfare, and we strongly believe our commitment to a national standard for hen welfare is in the best interest of our animals, customers and consumers,” said Bob Krouse, chairman of UEP and an Indiana egg farmer. “We are committed to working together for the good of the hens in our care and believe a national standard is far superior than a patchwork of state laws and regulations that would be cumbersome for our customers and confusing to consumers.”
Meanwhile, ballot measures in Washington and Oregon will be put on hold while animal welfare organizations focus on a federal law that will be enacted in all states, as opposed to fighting state by state when only some allow the ballot initiative process. If passed, a new federal law would also supercede state laws in Arizona, California, Michigan and Ohio. In California, egg producers will be required to get rid of battery cages by 2015, when Prop 2 is scheduled to take effect.
“I’m grateful to the UEP for showing leadership and foresight in endorsing such legislation. I’m also grateful to the countless volunteers and staff of groups like The HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, and the ASPCA, in states like California, Washington, and Oregon, who put us in a position to negotiate this landmark agreement,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS.
Photo Credit West.m via Flickr