Today’s “historic compromise” between The Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers on hen welfare could avoid a lawsuit to force federal regulators to require better egg labeling, according to a media release from Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
“Consumers have a right to know how the hens that produce their eggs live and it’s high time industry came clean and stopped misleading consumers,” said Stephen Wells, ALDF’s Executive Director. “If Congress moves quickly to pass legislation we can avoid an expensive lawsuit.”
Earlier this year animal protection groups Compassion Over Killing and ALDF filed federal rulemaking petitions that would have gone to the mat with a lawsuit, reported ALDF, demanding that federal regulators require more specific and accurate labels regarding the lives of of hens who produce commercially-sold eggs.
The new agreement means that the egg industry has capitulated to those petitions, and will now support regulations that require their products to be labeled “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” or “eggs from free-range hens,” with strict definitions for those labels, according to ALDF.
“’Farmed animals vastly outnumber all other animals in the U.S. but have been almost totally denied federal protection,’” said Wells. “’While we are disappointed that the phase-in period will take up to 18 years and there is still much work to be done to assure humane treatment of laying hens and other farmed animals, this compromise is a historic first step towards our country joining other progressive nations in eventually extending basic protections to billions of animals, and we urge Congress to get to work on enacting the law as quickly and strictly as possible.’”
More than 280 million laying hens in the United States spend nearly their entire lives in battery cages–“small wire cages stacked in tiers and lined up in rows inside huge warehouses,” according to the Farm Sanctuary website. “In accordance with the USDA’s recommendation to give each hen four inches of ‘feeder space,’ hens are commonly packed four to a cage measuring just 16 inches wide. In this tiny space, the birds cannot stretch their wings or legs, and they cannot fulfill normal behavioral patterns or social needs. Constantly rubbing against the wire cages, they suffer from severe feather loss, and their bodies are covered with bruises and abrasions.”
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Under the terms of today’s compromise those cages eventually would be replaced with new “enriched colony cages” doubling the current amount of space, including perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas. It would outlaw forced molting through starvation, mandate euthanasia standards for “spent” hens, limit ammonia levels in henhouses, and “most importantly prohibit the sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements,” said the ALDF media release.
If enacted, a law resulting from the agreement would be the first federal legislation mandating improvements to the daily lives of animals farmed for food.
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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris (a.k.a. Kathryn Makris) has written 18 books for major publishers and hundreds of articles for publications such as National Geographic Traveler, San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, Petside.com, and two regional news wire services.
A cofounder of AnimalBeat.org, she holds a B.A. in Environmental Science Studies and a lifelong interest in animal issues.
Among her books are Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know about Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press), coauthored with Shelley Frost, and The Eco-Kids, a series of novels for tweens (Avon Books).
Her story “Small Change” placed as a finalist in The Bark magazine’s short fiction contest and appeared in the November 2010 issue.
She may be reached at email@example.com
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