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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Urge Congress to Help Hundreds of Millions of Hens

Today in the U.S. Congress, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., reintroduced legislation that ratifies a national agreement between the egg industry and animal welfare groups to improve the treatment of 280 million laying hens. Under the terms of the bill, the entire U.S. egg industry would be transformed and would phase out barren battery cages where hens can barely move an inch for their entire lives. 

The measure would also provide the following improvements: each hen would have nearly double the current amount of space and environmental enrichments such as perches, nests and scratch pads so they can engage in more natural behaviors; it would ban inhumane methods of euthanasia and forced starvation molting; and it would require a national egg carton labeling program to give consumers more information about how hens are raised so they can make informed purchasing decisions in the marketplace.

HenCongress deals with so many polarizing issues every day, whether it’s health care, immigration, or the deficit. They are often unsuccessful in efforts (or don’t even try) to pull opposing sides into a room and negotiate a compromise. But here is an issue where the bulk of that work has been done and all the major stakeholders have already reached an agreement that improves animal welfare, helps consumers, and is good for egg producers and the economy. The legislation is backed by an unusually broad and diverse coalition of supporters, including animal protection, egg industry, veterinary, and consumer organizations. The nation needs this kind of consensus problem solving, and Congress should enthusiastically embrace it.

The only major opposition to the bill comes from some segments of the pork and beef lobbying groups, who don’t want to see any “precedent” for the federal government getting involved in animal welfare. Never mind that federal law already includes standards on transport and slaughter of livestock, that these same industries are all too happy to take federal tax dollars in the form of subsidies and to have federal laws covering various other aspects of animal agriculture policy, and that the only industry that is actually impacted by this egg legislation is strongly in favor of it.

With the House and the Senate both planning to take up the Farm Bill in the next few weeks, it’s critically important that your Senators and Representative hear from you in support of the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments. Please call them at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to support this common-sense legislation to help consumers, farmers, and hundreds of millions of animals.

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