HSUS and egg industry reach agreement on better treatment of laying hens

This seems like a big deal:

In an historic agreement reached today by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP), these long-time adversaries will work cooperatively to enact the first-ever federal law related to the treatment of chickens. It would also be the first federal law related to the on-farm treatment of animals raised for food.
The proposed federal legislation endorsed by the HSUS and UEP would:

  • Ban barren battery cages—small, cramped cages that nearly immobilize more than 250 million birds today—and essentially phase in double the amount of space each laying hen is presently given.
  • Require environmental enrichments for birds such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas for all hens.
  • Prohibit forced molting through starvation, an inhumane practice that involves withholding all food from birds for up to two weeks in order to manipulate the laying cycle. Tens of millions of hens in the country still endure this cruelty today.
  • Prohibit ammonia levels in henhouses from going above 25 parts per million.
  • Prohibit the sale of eggs and egg products in the U.S. that don’t meet these requirements.
  • Mandate that all egg cartons sold in the U.S. clearly identify the method of production; such as “Eggs from Caged Hens.”

From what I’ve read, the egg industry was motivated to reach this agreement in part because of the various state-level initiatives the HSUS had been pursuing, like Proposition 2 in California a couple of years ago. Rather than deal with a patchwork of state-level regulations, it seems they’d prefer a uniform federal standard.

In addition to the concrete improvements this should make in the lives of the millions of laying hens in the U.S., it will also be a big step to enshrine in federal law the principle that farmed animals are entitled to a certain level of humane treatment.

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