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May 24, 2012

Help Our Feathered Friends: Hen Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

Today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, along with a number of colleagues from both parties, introduced S. 3239, the Senate companion to H.R. 3798―the bill to codify the agreement between The HSUS and the United Egg Producers to begin the process of banning the barren battery cage in the United States. I am posting this blog to urge you to contact your two U.S. Senators to urge them to cosponsor S. 3239 (you can reach the Senate Switchboard by calling 202-224-3121) and to remind you of the monumental significance of this legislation.

White hen
Please take action today to help hens.

Right now, more than 90 percent of the 280 million laying hens in the United States are living in barren battery cages, with perhaps 20 to 40 million of the hens living in space allotments that are even smaller than the unacceptably miserly 67-inch allotments called for in the UEP’s voluntary guidelines.

The HSUS could fight this issue state by state over the next decade or two, with a series of uncertain outcomes, by initiating ballot measures in states that allow for direct democracy. But even if we succeed with every one of them―at a cost of tens of millions of dollars―many of the biggest egg-producing states, including Iowa (with nearly 60 million birds), would be immune, since they do not have the initiative process. As a matter of public policy, there’s just no way to get there with a state-by-state approach alone.

As an alternative to endless, and perhaps unproductive, combat, I sat down with egg industry leaders last year, and after sometimes painful and difficult negotiations, we found a pathway forward to phase out the use of the barren battery cage in America and to establish other reforms. This is a landmark accord within the history of the animal movement because it shows a new problem-solving approach to animal welfare issues, and it will have beneficial consequences for all 280 million hens in the United States, as well as for billions of birds in the generations to come. But if the Congress doesn’t complete the job by passing S. 3239 and H.R. 3798, the whole thing unravels, and the animals will continue to live in terrible circumstances.

Please take action to help hens today »

The legislation has been endorsed not just by The HSUS and UEP, which represents nearly 90 percent of the industry. It is also backed by the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers League, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the ASPCA, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, state egg industry trade associations throughout the country, and almost 1,000 individual farms that have formally endorsed this bill. In short, we have the leading animal welfare groups, the trade association that represents nearly the entire industry and many individual farmers, the veterinary community and other science-oriented groups, and the leading consumer groups in the country. That’s every key constituency, and we’re continuing to reach out to win support and backing from other stakeholders and concerned organizations.

This is the sort of problem-solving the nation needs. We can lob stones at each other and perhaps not get any definitive outcome. Or we can forge solutions that demonstrably, tangibly, and meaningfully improve the lives of hundreds of millions of animals―solutions that the industry will also support. That’s the only way that a movement like ours, with finite resources and a superabundance of forms of animal exploitation we need to confront, can succeed.

So please call your two U.S. Senators today at 202-224-3121 in support of Sen. Feinstein’s bill, S. 3239. And spread the word. We need to have the Congress inundated with calls to get this done. This should be the easiest decision of the year made by Congress―something that’s good for animals, backed by industry, and supported broadly by consumers. Good for animals, good for the nation.

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