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Statement on Committee Hearing on Bill to Improve Housing for Egg-Laying Hens

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, released the following statement in response to the hearing conducted today on S. 3239, the Egg Products Inspection Act of Amendments of 2012, by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.  

“The Congress has been presented with a detailed and workable egg industry reform bill that satisfies major animal welfare organizations, producers, consumer groups, and veterinary associations. This is the sort of problem-solving that the nation needs, and Congress should not only enact the proposal in short order, but celebrate the process that produced it. If the Congress punts, it will be a terrible setback for animal welfare and the egg industry, and it will reinforce the popular notion that Congress cannot even complete simple, common-sense legislative actions for the country.”

This legislation, along with a House companion bill, would demonstrably improve conditions for laying hens over a staggered phase-in period. It is the product of an agreement between HSUS and the United Egg Producers, which support the bill not only because of the enhanced animal welfare provisions, but also because it provides certainty and a level playing field for its members in producing eggs for the next generation. Dozens of egg farmers from all over the country attended the hearing today to show their support.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is the author of S. 3239, and Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Jeff Denham, R-Calif., have introduced the House version of the legislation. Both bills enjoy bipartisan support. The HSUS expressed its thanks to the bill sponsors, as well as to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., for conducting the hearing.

The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 would:

•    require conventional cages to be replaced during a 15 to 18 year phase-in period with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide each egg-laying hen nearly double the amount of current space – expanding the typical space from 67 to 48 square inches per bird to 124 to 144 square inches per bird;

•    require that, after a phase-in period, all egg-laying hens be provided with environmental enrichments, such as perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas, that will allow hens to express natural behaviors;

•    require labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs: “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens” and “eggs from free-range hens”;

•    prohibit feed- or water-withdrawal molting to extend the laying cycle, a practice already prohibited by the United Egg Producers Certified program;

•    require standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for euthanasia of egg-laying hens;

•    prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses; and

•    prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements.

Media Contacts:

Anna West, 240-751-2669, awest@humanesociety.org
Heather Sullivan, 301.548.7778, hsullivan@humanesociety.org 

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