Take Action: Urge Congress to Pass Landmark Bill to Protect Egg-Laying Hens

BatteryCagedHens_1.jpgThe use of barren battery cages is perhaps the cruelest form of institutionalized animal abuse in existence. In fact, these cages are so cruel they have been condemned by animal welfare experts worldwide, banned in the entire European Union, as well as in California and Michigan, and shunned by major food retailers, including Wolfgang Puck and Whole Foods.

Fortunately, Congress is now considering a landmark, precedent-setting federal bill - the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 (H.R. 3798) - that would ban barren battery cages nationwide and reduce the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals every year in the United States. Please help ensure this important bill passes by contacting your representatives in Congress today.

Here is a glimpse inside a typical battery-cage egg facility:

Despite widespread opposition to these cages, the vast majority of eggs in the United States - nearly 95% - still come from hens confined for nearly their entire lives to barren battery cages so small they are unable to fully stretch their wings, walk, run, perch, dust bathe, roost, or engage in most other natural behaviors.

However, if passed, the newly introduced Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 (EPIA) would:

  • Require all egg farms in the country to replace barren battery cages with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide each egg-laying hen nearly double the amount of space, as well as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas, that will allow hens to express more natural behaviors;
  • Mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs: "eggs from caged hens," "eggs from cage-free hens," and "eggs from free-range hens." This undoubtedly would reduce the demand for eggs from hens kept in cages and inspire many people to explore vegan options;
  • Outlaw the practice of starving hens in order to shock their bodies into another laying cycle (every year, millions of egg-laying hens are denied access to any food for up to two weeks);
  • Reduce noxious ammonia levels in henhouses; and
  • Prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don't meet these requirements.
Most of the provisions of the bill would take effect immediately, but the EPIA sets specific phase-in periods requiring egg producers nationwide to expand the space given to egg-laying hens every six years until reaching the final minimum space requirement for birds within no more than 18 years.

Although this is a precedent-setting bill that could become the first federal law to protect chickens raised for food in the history of the United States, and the first federal law to protect farmed animals of any species in more than 30 years, it will not end all of the needless cruelty and violence inherent in egg production - including the standard industry practices of painfully cutting off the tips of birds' beaks with a hot blade and tossing live male chicks into giant grinding machines or into trash bags to be slowly suffocated to death.

However, this bill could help reduce the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals who currently receive no legal protection from even the most egregious abuses, including in states in which there is virtually no hope of ever passing laws to help egg-laying hens or other farmed animals. In major egg-producing states like Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana and Pennsylvania, voter-initiated ballot measures are not allowed, and there is no pathway for concerned citizens to ban cruel battery cages or pass other laws to protect farmed animals.

To make matters worse, legislators aligned with agribusiness in some of these states are trying to outlaw undercover investigations and make it even more difficult to help animals suffering on factory farms. This federal Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 will help all 280 million egg-laying hens in the U.S., regardless of the political landscape in each state.

That this bill could set an important precedent for animal welfare in this country is perhaps most powerfully illustrated by the fact that it is so adamantly opposed by powerful agribusiness groups and lobbyists. In a recent letter to Congress, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Pork Producers Council and several other factory farm groups wrote: "Our gravest concern is that this precedent could leach into all corners of animal farming."

These groups see the writing on the wall. When the cruelest egg farming practices are outlawed, it is only a matter of time before the cruelest practices of the meat and dairy industries are banned as well.

As the New York Times editorialized, "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."

Please help ensure this landmark bill is passed by contacting your representatives in Congress and encouraging them to vote in favor of the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012. Click here to take action.

But remember, consumers still hold the greatest power of all to prevent needless animal abuse by simply removing eggs from their diets and replacing them with cruelty-free vegan alternatives. After contacting your representatives in Congress, please visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more about making the switch to a healthy and compassionate vegan lifestyle.