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More Room (to Suffer?)

Over 95% of egg laying hens in America live in battery cages like this.

You may have heard about the July 7. 2011, agreement between Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and United Egg Producers (see NY Times article) which calls for a series of proposed federal standards to be put into place over 18 years intending to improve the lives of laying hens. These reforms would include cages that give hens up one square foot of space each, just enough to stretch their wings, compared with the 2/3rds of a square foot that most hens have today.

They would also include so-called “habitat enrichments,” like perches, dust-bathing areas and nesting areas that allow the birds to express natural behaviors. While these changes may make a difference for the hens experiencing them, they still fall short in many important ways—the biggest being they’ll still be in cages with no outdoor access their entire lives! The agreement specifically prohibits HSUS from campaigning for cage-free farming or conducting most undercover investigations. And de-beaking, the grinding alive (or suffocating) of unwanted male chicks, and the slaughter of the layer hens after 18 months are some major issues that aren’t addressed.

Henrietta the hen

The blog-o-sphere is electric with strong opinions about this agreement, from “this is a huge step backward” to “this is a major victory!”  It’s a complicated issue, but it’s essential to keep fighting for animals and not fight amongst each other!  We appreciate the efforts and work of HSUS and their clout to work with powerful corporations and lobbyists. We at WFAS will continue to advocate to eliminate ALL uses of animals, not just eggs.  Our fight is for empty cages, not bigger ones.  In the meantime we’re grateful for any meaningful reduction of suffering for our fellow beings.

We encourage you to read some of the more thoughtful essays and consider your own ethical position on the issue.

HSUS’s perspective

Dawnwatch

New York Times

United Poultry Concerns