Washingtonians for Humane Farms Applauds Agreement to Pass Federal Law on Laying Hen Welfare, Suspends 2011 Ballot Drive

Washingtonians for Humane Farms Applauds Agreement to Pass Federal Law on Laying Hen Welfare, Suspends 2011 Ballot Drive

Federal proposal reaches higher standard than recently enacted state law — applying to all 280 million hens in the nation

OLYMPIA, Wa. (July 7, 2011) — Washingtonians for Humane Farms (WHF) gathered more than 355,000 signatures over the past several months to place I-1130, or the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, on November’s ballot. However, in light of a promising new agreement reached between animal welfare groups and the United Egg Producers to jointly push for federal legislation to improve the welfare of all 280 million laying hens in the nation, WHF is officially suspending its ballot campaign and forgoing the submission of its signatures by Friday’s signature deadline, in support of this national agreement.

The federal proposal supported by animal welfare groups and the egg industry would:

require a moratorium on new construction after 2011 of barren battery cages — small, cramped cages that nearly immobilize more than 90 percent of laying hens today — and the nationwide elimination of the existing cages through a phase-out period; require phased-in construction of new hen housing systems that provide each hen nearly double the amount of space they’re currently provided; require environmental enrichments so birds can engage in important natural behaviors currently denied to them in barren cages, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas; mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, such as “eggs from caged hens” or “eggs from cage-free hens”; prohibit forced molting through starvation — an inhumane practice which is inflicted on tens of millions of hens each year and which involves withholding all food from birds for up to two weeks in order to manipulate the laying cycle; prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses — a common problem in the industry that is harmful to both hens and egg industry workers;
require standards for euthanasia practices; and prohibit the sale of all eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements.

Some of the provisions will be implemented nearly immediately after enactment, such as those relating to molting, ammonia, and euthanasia, and others after just a few years, including labeling and the requirement that all birds will have to have at least 67 square inches of space each. (Currently, approximately 50 million laying hens are confined at only 48 square inches each.)

“For too long, animals on factory farms have had no federal protection from even the most heinous abuse. This new federal bill would ensure modest yet historic improvements for egg-laying hens, and we encourage Washingtonians to urge their lawmakers to enact it as soon as possible,” stated Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary.

“Washingtonians for Humane Farms was heartened by the response from the public while collecting the signatures,” stated Tamar Puckett, WHF’s chief petitioner. “With the prospect of making a historic difference in the lives of nearly 280 million egg-laying hens, we look forward to working to enact federal reform inclusive of all laying hens across the country.”

“It is always our greatest hope to find common ground and to forge solutions, even with traditional adversaries,” stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “We are excited about a new and better pathway forward, and we extend our thanks to the hard-working Washington volunteers and supporters who helped to set the stage for a national policy to end barren battery cages across the entire country.”

Facts

• About 6 million egg-laying hens in Washington spend their entire lives inside cages where each hen has less space than a sheet of paper.
• Washington lawmakers enacted SB 5487, which address hen welfare, but requires less space than this proposed federal policy would and does not contain many of the other important provisions, such as mandatory labeling of production methods on egg cartons.

Washingtonians for Humane Farms is a coalition of animal welfare, family farming, food safety, and environmental groups working to place an important measure on this November’s statewide ballot to prevent the extreme confinement of egg-laying hens in tiny cages for nearly their entire lives.