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June 12, 2012

Newspapers Flock to Support Bill that Would Help Millions of Hens

There are many ways to measure the power of an idea—and one of them is the ability of that idea to attract diverse support. When it comes to the surprising and unusual collaboration between The HSUS and the United Egg Producers to ban the barren battery cage and to require more space for laying hens, and to secure a ban on inhumane practices like starvation molting, it’s been remarkable to see the overwhelming range of support—from animal protection groups to agricultural organizations to veterinary associations to consumer groups to newspapers throughout the country. Today, USA Today endorsed the legislation, and as you’ll see below, so have other major papers throughout the country. We are not aware of any such papers opposing the legislation.

chickens in a crowded battery cage
photo: Compassion Over Killing

Pork and cattle industry trade associations do oppose the bill, as does the American Farm Bureau Federation, though none of these groups have expertise in egg farming or any economic investment in eggs. It’s amazing to see how these groups are trying to subvert farmers in the egg industry. These groups, so quick to object to outside interference in their own affairs, have turned on other farmers and are now engaged in precisely the same conduct they claim to decry.

And while the vast majority of animal protection groups favor the bill—from The HSUS to the ASPCA to Farm Sanctuary to Mercy for Animals to In Defense of Animals to the National Federation of Humane Societies—there are a few groups that oppose the legislation. But the main group against the bill has no history of achieving any policy progress on farm animal confinement issues, refused to endorse Prop 2 in California in 2008, and refused to endorse any other successful ballot measure on farm animal protection, all of which were driven by The HSUS. 

These editorial boards from across the country are among the many voices who have spoken out strongly in favor of this important federal legislation to phase out barren battery cages for millions of egg-laying hens. If you haven’t already, please contact your senators and urge them to cosponsor the Senate version of the bill, S. 3239, and vote for a parallel amendment to the Farm Bill offered by Senator Feinstein and a bipartisan set of cosponsors. You can call 202-224-3121 to reach the Capitol Switchboard.

“It's a small but important step, and it deserves to be enacted...The virtue of federal legislation is that it sets a minimum standard of care for animals while sparing responsible producers from the threat of being undercut on price by less scrupulous competitors.”—Chicago Tribune
“The story of how this deal came about holds a larger message for antagonists in weightier issues such as immigration, climate change and banking regulation: Pay attention and see how it's done…. Less than a penny an egg to treat animals humanely doesn't sound like too high a price. Especially if it comes with a rare lesson in how to get things done in deadlocked Washington.”—USA Today
“The congressional legislation that has resulted from this unusual alliance shows a good balance between real-world egg-production practices and the idealistic goal of free-range chicken farming...Congress, though, has a clear mandate to act from the farmers who know best how they want their eggs done.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“This bill...3798, deserves swift enactment. And the process by which it even got this far ought to be a model for politically warring factions everywhere.”—San Diego Union-Tribune
“It’s well past time to create a national standard that promotes more humane conditions everywhere. Yet the American Farm Bureau Federation, a trade group for farmers, the National Pork Producers Council, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association oppose the bill. They seem to fear that common sense and a humane regard for the well-being of farm animals will spread to their own industries.”—The New York Times
“In today's hyperpolarized world, that's not just a victory. It's an example of the way things should work.”—Arizona Republic
“Once at loggerheads, the nation's egg producers have joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States to support sensible bipartisan legislation in Congress that would require the industry to adopt the ‘enriched colony’ system for caged birds over the next 15 years...Egg producers, who are backing the legislation to head off a potentially costly patchwork of state laws, say eggs are likely to remain affordable, since farmers will phase in the colony system as part of their normal investment cycle—and hens are healthier and more productive in such an environment.”—New York Newsday
“Neither the producers nor the animal welfare advocates are getting everything they want. But the legislation would, not insignificantly, make egg farming in America more humane. And that's reason enough to support it.”—The Virginian-Pilot
“The new standards are based on sound science. Chickens living in enriched environments experience lower mortality rates and higher production rates than chickens in tightly confined cages.”—The Olympian
“Two former antagonists have come together to push for a national standard for the humane treatment of chickens raised for their eggs. The plan is a reasonable compromise and we hope they are successful in getting it through Congress—a place where too many people don't seem too interested in finding common ground these days.”—Sacramento Bee, Modesto Bee, and Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star
“The legislation exemplifies how traditional adversaries can put aside their distrust and work together for each side’s mutual benefit.”—Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal and Green Bay (Wis.) Press Gazette
“A federal law is the only way to mandate uniform standards, and this smart and focused measure is supported by the United Egg Producers, which represents 88% of the nation's egg farmers. As legislation goes, it's a good egg.”—Los Angeles Times
“It's no sure thing that Congress will approve the national standard; pig producers opposed to any national farm standards already are raising objections. But the agreement on laying hens is a fair compromise.”—The Oregonian
“We know that animals feel discomfort and pain. We know that bad conditions can cause them great distress. Because the animals are in our power and helpless, we must avoid cruelty at all costs. Congress should pass the bill.”—Albany (Ore.) Democrat Herald
“This is an important measure, especially in Pennsylvania, which is the third-largest egg producer in the country...This is not just about providing better conditions for chickens, although that is important. The changes also give consumers better information about the eggs they buy. Wording will specify how the animals that laid their eggs are kept—from caged hens to those that are free to roam.”—Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News
“Even most confirmed carnivores would agree that cruelty-free agricultural methods are preferable. Allowing hens a little room to spread their wings and places to perch, nest, and scratch seems pretty reasonable...The accord between the HSUS and the egg producers is something to crow about.”—Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star
“Federal regulation of eggs and other agricultural products is not new. Most people in the egg industry want this updated legislation because it sets a uniform playing field for everyone instead of having states develop their own standards. Furthermore, evidence suggests that hens' egg production increases at farms that have installed the new cages.”—Clarksville (Tenn.) Leaf Chronicle
“There also are significant political obstacles, starting with cattlemen and other livestock interests who oppose the bill. But the same organizations successfully challenged a California law governing slaughterhouses, arguing in court that federal standards should prevail. Fair enough, let the same approach extend to egg farms.”—Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat
“Compromise offered the best possible outcome. Federal rules would benefit all 280 million hens rather than just 6 million Washington cluckers. The egg industry would get a nationwide standard to live by rather than a hodgepodge of state laws, and voters won’t have to make the call about how best to balance animal welfare and commerce. Would that more groups were able to settle their differences in such a way, without forcing the electorate into all-or-nothing scenarios that rarely come without major complications.”—Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune

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