Resolutions and bills against battery egg cages
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Resolutions and bills against battery egg cages
by Karen Dawn 3/7 - 3/8/07

By 2012, the entire European Union will have phased out conventional battery cages in which egg-laying hens are confined. Many US colleges and natural food stores have stopped selling eggs from battery caged hens, and some state legislatures in the US are considering farm animal welfare legislation that would ban battery hen cages. No such legislation has passed in the US as yet.

Two newspaper stories this week note legislation dealing with the issue:

The Wednesday March 7 Hartford Courant included an op-ed by HSUS's Michael Markarian headed, "Chickens Need Room To Stretch."

It tells us that on Friday, the Connecticut legislature's Environment Committee "will hold a public hearing on House Bill 7304, which would require the most basic protection for laying hens in the state: that they have enough room to spread their wings, rather than be cramped in tiny wire cages. The measure would essentially prohibit the confinement of laying hens in so-called 'battery cages,' and require that the state's egg purchases come from cage-free producers.

Markarian tells us:

"Nearly all egg-laying hens nationwide are confined in cages so restrictive that the birds can barely move, let alone engage in many other natural behaviors such as walking, perching and dust bathing. Each caged laying hen has 67 square inches of floor space - less than a sheet of letter-sized paper - on which to live for nearly her entire life, leading to extremely high levels of stress and frustration.

He quotes Poultry science expert Dr. Ian Duncan of the University of Guelph in Ontario: "The lack of space in battery cages reduces welfare by preventing hens from adopting certain postures - such as an erect posture with the head raised - and performing particular behaviors - such as wing-flapping."

And he quotes Pope Benedict XVI who said, in a 2002 interview (then as Cardinal Ratzinger): "We cannot just do whatever we want with them ... Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that ... hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible."

Markarian discusses United Egg Producers, which represents most of the U.S. egg companies that use battery cages. He writes:
"The Better Business Bureau recently ruled that the group's 'Animal Care Certified' label was misleading, since the label standards allowed confining hens inside tiny cages where they cannot spread their wings or walk."

Markarian notes cities that have passed resolutions against battery cages:
"Here in the U.S., the cities of Takoma Park, Md., and West Hollywood, Calif., have passed resolutions condemning the confinement of laying hens in cages and urging residents not to buy eggs from caged hens."

And that brings us to a story, by reporter Christian M. Wade, in the Thursday March 8 Tampa Tribune, headed, "City Opposes Cruel Caging Of Chickens."

It opens:

"The city council has passed a resolution opposing the use of battery cages for egg-laying hens, becoming one of three cities in the nation to take a stand against the practice.

"The move, approved unanimously Tuesday night, thrusts the city into the worldwide debate over a practice that animal rights groups say is cruel and inhumane.

"The action doesn't ban battery cages or egg sales; it urges consumers not to buy from farms that employ a method that's widespread in the poultry industry."

Unfortunately the Tampa Tribune article suggests:

"The advocacy group United Egg Producers has passed animal care guidelines that about 80 percent of the industry has embraced, according to www.unitedegg.org. 'The guidelines place top priority on the comfort, health and safety of the chickens,' the site states, and they call for more cage space per hen, 'which is being phased in to avoid market disruptions.'"

Markarian's Hartford Courant piece, cited above, gave a more accurate picture of UEP's misleading animal care guidelines.

You'll find the Hartford Courant op-ed on line at http://tinyurl.com/3cgnt5
The Tampa Tribune piece is at http://www.tbo.com/pasco/MGB3942L0ZE.html 

Cage free eggs are not cruelty free. Hens are killed when they stop laying, and do not even have protection under Federal Humane Slaughter Laws. They are killed by the cheapest means available. They may be buried alive in huge ditches. In California, in 2003, a farmer killed 30,000 egg-laying hens by feeding them into a woodchipper. He was not prosecuted for cruelty.
(See http://www.dawnwatch.com/oped-december1-2003.htm

While cage-free laws will not alleviate the pain of their deaths, they can ease the unrelenting life-long suffering of egg-laying hens and are therefore a big step forward. You can send supportive letters to Connecticut and Tampa:

Connecticut's Hartford Courant takes letters at http://tinyurl.com/ywgahc
The Tampa Tribune takes letters at http://www.tbo.com/news/opinion/submissionform.htm 

Please be sure not to use any comments or phrases from me or from any other alerts in your letters. Editors are looking for original responses from their readers. Short, simple, and heartfelt are best.

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)

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