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June 4, 2012

Humane Farming Association Raises Money for Battery Cage Status Quo

Learn the facts behind the false attack

  • HFA refused to support Calif.'s Prop 2 and has never banned any farm animal confinement practice anywhere. The HSUS

The beef and pork industries are doing everything they can to try to kill an effort in the Congress to ban barren battery cages for all US egg-laying hens. Unfortunately, they have an ally in an organization called the Humane Farming Association (HFA).

Before discussing why a diverse array of animal protection organizations—from Farm Sanctuary and the ASPCA to Mercy For Animals and Animal Legal Defense Fund—supports this effort in the Congress as significant progress for animals, it's important to know a bit of background about HFA.

You may be shocked, and rightfully so, to learn about HFA's newest fundraising campaign attacking the accomplishments of The HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, and many other animal protection organizations.


In reality, HFA has never supported any anti-factory farming campaign that’s been placed on a ballot (these include California's Proposition 2, Arizona's Prop 204, and Florida's Amendment 10).

While California is HFA’s home state, the group refused to support Prop 2 (the groundbreaking campaign to ban battery cages, gestation crates, and veal crates), instead choosing to remain neutral and allow the rest of the animal movement to fight the agribusiness industry. In similar anti-factory farming ballot campaigns measures in Arizona, Ohio, and Florida, HFA was a bystander while other groups such as HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, and Mercy For Animals shouldered the burden of advancing farm animals' interests. In fact, while it condemns farm animal protection bills it thinks don't go far enough, HFA has never taken part in any campaign that has succeeded in banning any farm animal confinement practice anywhere.

HFA even opposed successful efforts to ban the sale and production of foie gras in California, which will save countless ducks and geese from hideous abuse when it takes effect in July 2012. HFA not only opposed the measure to outlaw this hideous factory farming practice that causes extreme animal suffering, it took out advertisements against the bill urging its defeat.

With specific regard to HFA's newest fundraising campaign targeting The HSUS: we've long campaigned to ban all types of cages for laying hens. The HSUS has been—and continues to be—among a small group of organizations in the nation that's helped major companies (like Burger King, Wendy's and IHOP) move toward cage-free eggs. And we've spearheaded every piece of successful laying hen welfare legislation in U.S. history. HFA has regrettably never persuaded a single retailer to move away from battery cage eggs.

However, anyone who understands the current Congress knows that passing federal legislation to outlaw all types of cages is not a realistic option. In addition, the vast majority of U.S. egg-laying hens are in states where ballot measures are not allowed and where the legislatures will not vote to outlaw all cages.  For this reason, having the chance to create a national standard to improve the lives of all hens in the nation is an opportunity that the animal protection movement should seize.

Imagine being given a choice: We can leave hens in unbearably cramped, barren cages so small they can’t even spread their wings indefinitely (with 50 million of the 250 million or so caged birds in 52-inch space allotments, with the rest provided just 67 square inches per bird), or we can work toward federal legislation that, if passed, will improve hundreds of millions of animals’ lives each year. No one argues that this law would provide idyllic conditions for laying hens by any means, but it would provide nearly double the amount of space the birds currently have, a ban on starvation forced molting and other abusive practices, a national egg labeling program to inform consumers of how hens are confined, and importantly, nationwide standards for animals who currently have basically no protections.

Additionally, HFA's fundraising scheme contains outright false information about the proposed legislation: 

  • HFA asserts that if enacted, this bill wouldn't take effect for 15-18 years, which is simply false. The new requirements begin being phased in just one year after enactment (such as mandatory labeling on egg cartons of "eggs from caged hens"), and include mandatory improvements every few years during the course of the transition. 
  • HFA's alarmist claim that this legislation "would preempt state anti-cruelty laws as it pertains to the treatment of laying hens" is false. While the measure would set national standards for space, state cruelty laws concerning torture, abuse, and the denial of veterinary care would still apply to the nation's egg producers in those few states where such laws currently apply. The federal bill would amend the Egg Products Inspection Act, which deals with the sale of eggs, not with state cruelty laws. 
  • As to setting a national space standard for space, HFA is creating the illusion that states are lining up to ban cages for laying hens. In reality, HFA has never even proposed, let alone helped to enact, a law on this topic anywhere. The vast majority of U.S. egg-laying hens live in states where we have no pathway to provide them with any legal protection whatsoever (i.e., there's no ballot measure option and little political will among lawmakers in those states).

There's a reason HFA is never mentioned by the agribusiness industry as a threat. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and complaining about what other groups are doing to help farm animals, we hope HFA chooses to wage and win its own campaigns in the future.

The HSUS believes in tangible victories for animals, and that progress begets progress—and the federal bill on hen protection is an important advancement toward a more humane society.  We're proud of our work in these and other campaigns to improve the treatment of animals.

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