30 May 2012

Federal bill Introduced to improve conditions for egg-laying hens

A newly introduced bill could help improve the lives of over 280 million hens used in US egg production. The legislation, known as the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, is supported by both the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers. The act would require several improvements for egg-laying hens- including practically doubling the space required for each hen.

The UEP supports the bill due to the fact that it has a structured phase in process that applies to egg farmers only. “This legislation will help ensure the American consumers continue to have a wide variety and uninterrupted supply of eggs at affordable prices,” said Gene Gregory, president of United Egg Producers. “Our industry is being endangered by the growing patchwork of differing and contradictory state laws and ballot initiatives that are impeding the free flow of interstate commerce in eggs that is so vital to grocers, restaurateurs, food manufacturers and consumers.”

More importantly for the chickens and animal welfare advocates, HSUS supports the bill because of the humane improvements that are called for.
The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 would: 
  • require conventional cages to be replaced during an ample phase-in period with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide each egg-laying hen nearly double the amount of current space;  
  • require that,after a phase-in period, all egg-laying hens be provided with environmental enrichments, such as perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas, that will allow hens to express natural behaviors; 
  • require labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs: “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens” and “eggs from free-range hens”; 
  • prohibit feed- or water-withdrawal molting to extend the laying cycle, a practice already prohibited by the United Egg Producers Certified program; 
  • require standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for euthanasia of egg-laying hens; 
  • prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses; and 
  • prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements. 
“This legislation is a compromise between HSUS and UEP, with both organizations stretching themselves in order to find a solution that’s good for animal welfare, for the industry, and for the nation as a whole,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “There’s no reason for Congress to do anything but enthusiastically embrace this sort of problem-solving by the primary stakeholders.”

Not all animal welfare organizations agree, feeling that the bill has ulterior motives. Organizations in opposition to the act include:
  • Humane Farming Association
  • Friends of Animals
  • Animals Unlimited
  • United Poultry Concerns
  • Last Chance for Animals
  • Action for Animals
  • Northwest Animal Rights Network
  • Defend Animals Coalition
  • Political Animals
  • Associated Humane Societies
  • SAFE 
“The egg industry is seeking to establish egg factory cages as a national standard that could never be challenged or changed by state law or public vote,” said Bradley Miller, National Director of the Humane Farming Association. “This bill would preempt state laws... and is a direct assault upon egg laying hens, voters, and states’ rights”(Source: hfa.org).  The Humane Farming Association released a 90 second video opposing the act, which can be seen here.

If passed, the proposal will require egg producers to make the improvements over the next 18 years. Currently upwards of 50 million hens receive just 48 square inches of space; the majority of hens have only 67 square inches of space. The legislation would require a minimum of 124 square inches for hens nationwide.

Stephanie Pania | Facebook | Blog | Pinterest
Philadelphia, PA Stephanie is an eco-conscious vegan from Philadelphia, PA. She has a degree in Communications and Technical Theater, and is currently the communications specialist at an area nonprofit. She recently finished a year serving with AmeriCorps, and spends her free time playing with her adopted dogs and her rescued cats.

Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary