July 12, 2011


US to improve layers' welfare



In a revolutionary move that supporters hope will cause the biggest progression for farmed animals in US history, the United Egg Producers (UEP) has consented to back up a national legislation that hopes to enhance the welfare of all laying hens in the country.


The bill will bring about the first federal law relating to the treatment of chickens used for food and the treatment of animals while on factory farms, as well as the first farmed animal protection legislation in more than 30 years.


This marks the culmination of a 25 year-long struggle that Farm Sanctuary and other animal protection organisations have had with the egg industry that has included investigations that documented and disseminated information about battery cage farms and caged hen welfare, statewide ballot initiatives, and massive letter-writing campaigns.


According to Farm Sanctuary, the UEP "now understands the overwhelming opposition to battery cages." In 2008, California citizens voted overwhelmingly to ban the cages and the initiative received more "yes" votes than any other ballot measure in California history.


If it becomes law, the legislation will involve the following; require the nationwide elimination of tiny battery cages that nearly immobilise hundreds of millions of laying hens today; birds to engage in natural behaviors currently denied to them in barren cages, such as places to perch, nest and scratch; mandate labelling 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, 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 do not meet these requirements.


Some of the provisions will be implemented almost immediately after enactment (those relating to starvation, ammonia levels and euthanasia) whereas others (labelling and the requirement that all birds will have to have at least 67 square inches of space per bird) after a few years. Currently, approximately 50 million laying hens are confined at only 48 square inches per bird.


The proposed legislation will now have to make its way through congress before it becomes law.

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