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Animal Welfare Groups Win Industry Backing for First-Ever Federal Regulation of Hen Welfare
Groundswell of Public Support Results in Full Court Press for Nationwide Law Protecting Chickens to Replace State-by-State Initiatives
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - July 7 - In a groundbreaking move that should result in the greatest advancement for farmed animals in U.S. history, the United Egg Producers (UEP)has agreed to support national legislation that will, upon enactment, improve the welfare of all laying hens in the nation. Enactment of the bill will bring about the first federal law relating to the treatment of chickens used for food, the first federal law relating to the treatment of animals while on factory farms, and the first farmed animal protection legislation in more than 30 years.
Today’s deal is the apex of a 25 year-long struggle that Farm Sanctuary (www.farmsanctuary.org) and other animal protection organizations have had with the egg industry, in which Farm Sanctuary has investigated and produced undercover video of battery farms, produced and disseminated scientific reports on caged hen welfare, initiated statewide ballot initiatives, and constantly mobilized its hundreds of thousands of supporters to write letters, sign petitions, and work on behalf of hens in cages in myriad ways.
Because of the work of Farm Sanctuary supporters and other animal protection advocates across the nation, the UEP now understands the overwhelming opposition to battery cages, which were subject to a ballot initiative in California in 2008, in which California citizens voted overwhelmingly to ban the cages; the initiative received more “yes” votes than any other ballot measure in California history. Similar legislation, on hold as a result of today’s agreement, was planned in Washington State and Oregon. Specifically, if it becomes law the legislation will:
- require the nationwide elimination of battery cages—tiny cages that nearly immobilize hundreds of millions of laying hens today;
- require environmental enrichments so that birds can engage in important natural behaviors currently denied to them in barren cages, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas;
- mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, such as “eggs from caged hens” or “eggs from cage-free hens;”
- prohibit forced molting through starvation—an inhumane practice which is inflicted on tens of millions of hens each year and which involves withholding all food from birds for up to two weeks in order to shock their bodies into another laying cycle;
- prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses—a common problem in the industry that is harmful to both hens and egg industry workers;
- require standards for euthanasia practices; and
- prohibit the sale of all eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements.
Some of the provisions will be implemented almost immediately after enactment, such as those relating to starvation, ammonia levels, and euthanasia, and others after just a few years, including labeling and the requirement that all birds will have to have at least 67 square inches of space per bird. Currently, approximately 50 million laying hens are confined at only 48 square inches per bird.Further improvements in mandated minimum space for hens occur later in the agreement.
“This deal represents a majorvictory for farmed animals,” explains Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary. “For too long, animals on factory farms have had no federal protection from even the most heinous abuse. We are proud of our significant part in making this legislation a reality, and we salute the hard work of animal protection advocates nationwide who worked so hard on behalf of our nation’s hens.”