A promising and unprecedented agreement has been reached that could improve the lives of hundreds of millions of hens across America.
Under the agreement, United Egg Producers (UEP), a cooperative representing the owners of approximately 80 percent of the nation’s egg-laying hens, and the Humane Society of the United States will jointly push for federal legislation to improve the welfare of all laying hens in the United States. The ASPCA and other animal welfare groups have also agreed to support this legislation. This could lead to the first federal law improving the treatment of chickens used for food, the first federal law improving the daily conditions for animals on factory farms, and the first federal farmed-animal protection legislation in more than 30 years.
The agreement came as two ballot campaigns aimed at improving conditions for egg-laying hens in Washington and Oregon—both of which were championed by the ASPCA and our citizen Advocacy Brigade—were gaining momentum. As a result of today’s news, the initiative drives will be suspended.
"This is a historic and ground-breaking proposal, and the ASPCA calls on Congress to swiftly enact legislation to protect hens from some of the most shocking abuses on factory farms,” states Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the ASPCA. “The legislation and ballot initiatives on hen welfare already adopted in California and Michigan, and those pending in Washington and Oregon, prove the American public will no longer tolerate the mistreatment of animals anywhere.”
More than 90 percent of egg-laying hens in the United States are confined in enclosures called “battery cages.” The footprint of one of these cages is smaller than a single sheet of standard letter-size paper—they are so small that the hens within them can’t even extend their wings, and the discomfort and stress they experience manifests in constant self-mutilation and fighting. If enacted, the proposed language advocated by UEP and animal welfare groups would, among other improvements:
- Require the nationwide elimination of barren battery cages over a phase-out period, replacing them with hen housing systems that provide birds with nearly double the amount of space;
- Require environmental enrichments so birds can engage in important natural behaviors;
- Mandate that all egg cartons be labeled to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, such as “eggs from caged hens” or “eggs from cage-free hens.”
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