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July 20, 2012

Talk Back: A Sea Change on Gestation Crates, and Outrage against King Amendment

It was a big moment, earlier this year, when McDonald’s made a joint announcement with The HSUS that the best-known restaurant chain in the world would start the process of phasing out purchases of pork from producers who confine sows in gestation crates. We’ve seen similar announcements in the months since from a raft of companies―including Burger King, Safeway, and Kroger, just to name a few. But earlier this week, we made what may be the biggest announcement yet―among the biggest in terms of pork purchasing and sales. Costco announced that it, too, would join the cascade of companies who are now paying attention to animal welfare issues and recognizing that gestation crates are unacceptable. Costco is the second-biggest food seller in the U.S., right after Walmart.

White hen
Please take action today to help hens.

Big Pork is taking it on the chin, week after week, with these changes in corporate policy in the food sector of our economy. That industry refuses to listen to reason or science or its customer base, and stubbornly clings to extreme confinement practices as a customary practice. Its defense is futile, and it’s being exposed as an industry without much of any conscience when it comes to animal welfare. It’s losing reputational capital in the short-term and in the long-term.

Contrast that with the egg industry, which has proposed federal legislation to phase in changes for its industry and to eventually eliminate the barren battery cage. The egg industry's leaders sat down with The HSUS and hammered out a mutually beneficial agreement to advance animal welfare (H.R. 3798/S. 3239). Now the industry is making investments in codifying the plan, which is an antecedent to the actual transformation of its entire infrastructure.

When you have traditional adversaries who come together on a plan like this, you would think that the Congress would enthusiastically embrace it, especially because it asks for no financing from the federal government. Many lawmakers see the wisdom of it, but a few are still in the grip of the corporate pork and beef lobbies, which want to see no improvement on animal welfare policy and which are trying to kill the agreement. Their minion in Congress is Iowa’s Rep. Steve King, who is also an apologist for dogfighting, cockfighting, horse slaughter, and plenty of other appalling practices. Last week, King offered a retaliatory amendment to the egg-laying hen agreement. His proposal attempts to scuttle the agreement and it could also overturn a raft of state laws on animal welfare, food safety, and worker and environmental protection.

His desperate effort cannot preserve the use of gestation crates―that shift toward improved housing systems is inevitable, given the cascade of corporate decisions since January 2012. But he can thwart our progress for improvements in the lives of 280 million laying hens.

King is the worst sort of politician―someone who works against our nation’s interests and who does so at the bidding of special interest groups. It’s no wonder why the public holds so many members of Congress in ill repute.

Many of you had a lot to say about King and his amendment, after I wrote about them twice in the last week:

[Rep. King] needs to be replaced with someone that cares about animal welfare. We need more in Congress that love animals because the sad part is the animals don't have a voice in any situation they are in. NO to horse slaughter in the USA now or ever. I am tired of my tax dollars being wasted when they need to go help the people and animals in need. ―Shirley Smith

We cannot sit still for this. I am writing a letter to the editor of the [San Francisco Chronicle] and encourage all HSUS members to write to their local papers in protest of the King amendment. Please take the time this weekend to sit down and write an intelligent, brief letter. ―Tai Moses

What a poor example of leadership in Iowa. Such a great state and Mr. King dismisses humane and ethical treatment of such wonderful animals. Please don't support any of his initiatives. ―Jennifer Hanson

I am appalled that anyone would be so narrow-minded, cruel and selfish as to oppose anything related to keeping our environment and animals safe. He's got to be getting some good political contributions to act like this. ―Karen Valerio

Who voted to put this guy in office? I suggest they vote him out! No wonder people are disgusted with politics. The politicians cater to special interests. ―Mary Oster

What is the name of the King amendment and who voted in favor of it? The consumer has spoken―ask Kroger, etc. People who care about animals vote with their pocketbook and the companies who buy from suppliers now understand that and are insisting on humane practices from their suppliers no matter what King and his bought-and-paid for cronies try to undo. A good example of Rep. King's vaunted market forces at work. ―Laura Meltzer

If the powers that be in our government don't care about animal welfare, one would hope that they would "at least" care about food safety, and what Americans, what children are eating...they obviously just don’t care about the American people or our animals period! Very sad, very telling. Thanks for the update Wayne, grim as it may be. Keep up the fight! ―Michele Bolinger

My stomach literally feels sick hearing this news. Wayne, what can we do to help? We can NOT let these abuses continue! Every day my heart aches for all the animals. We're supposed to be the most "civilized" country in the world and yet by the way we treat animals, you'd never know it! ―Joan Dick

It’s critical that our supporters write to Senators and Representatives in support of the HSUS-UEP egg industry reform legislation, but also in opposition to the King amendment. And let’s take up Tai’s suggestion: writer letters to the editor. Create a stir. It’s our government, and we can’t allow retrograde politicians like King to prevail and to retard progress that’s good for animals, for consumers, and even for the industries themselves.

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