Today is a landmark day for America’s egg-laying hens. The first ever federal legislation to protect them, H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, was introduced with the support of The Humane Society of the United States and The United Egg Producers. Currently about 250 million hens are confined in tiny, barren cages called “battery cages” for the purpose of egg production. Each cage contains 5-8 birds and the space allowance per-bird is less than a standard sheet of paper! These cages are devoid of perches, scratching areas, nesting boxes—things that are highly important for hens’ good welfare. The birds live like that, unable to take more than a few steps or even spread their wings, for their entire 12-18 month production cycle until they’re slaughtered.
As of now, there’s not a single federal law to protect animals raised for food while on the farm. And most state laws exempt animals being raised for agricultural purposes. If passed, H.R. 3798 would essentially double the space requirement for each egg-laying hen and birds would be provided enrichments like a nesting box and scratch pad. Is it perfect? No. But it’s a lot better than the barren environments that they currently suffer in.
The legislation would also ban forced molting by starvation. It’s currently legal to starve birds to shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle. Though it’s against UEP standards, there are still tens of thousands of egg laying hens raised by non-UEP certified producers. The legislation, too, would create a labeling program that would require the type of system in which the eggs were produced to be indicated on cartons (i.e., “eggs from caged hens” and “eggs from cage-free hens”) so consumers are able to make informed purchasing decisions.
It’s important that we all support this monumental legislation and The Humane Society of the United States has made that very easy. You can fill out a web form here to contact your U.S. Representative to ask them to support the legislation. It’ll only take a minute and could do a world of good.