Friday, July 8, 2011

Eggspanding The Rights Of Hens

When advocates of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles try to sway meat eaters to their point view, one thing they point to is the inhumane living conditions of food animals, in this case, chickens. Currently, tens of millions of chickens are each allotted 48 square inches of cage space and are kept in less than clean conditions. However, this is on the verge of changing for egg producing hens.

Members of the United Egg Producers have recently concluded talks with representatives of the Humane Society of the United States. Said talks resulted in a joint statement being made to congress recommending a new piece of legislation, designed to improve the living conditions of egg producing hens.

According to the article, "Egg Growing And Layer Cage Conditions To Change In USA," the bill will:

  • Require conventional cages (currently used by more than 90% of the egg industry) to be replaced, through an ample phase-in period, with new, enriched housing systems that provide each hen nearly double the amount of space they're currently allotted. Egg producers will invest an additional $4 billion over the next decade and a half to effect this industry-wide make-over;
  • Require that all egg-laying hens be provided, through the new enriched housing system, with environments that will allow hens to express natural behaviors, 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," "eggs from hens in enriched cages," "eggs from cage-free hens," and "eggs from free-range hens;"
  • Prohibit feed- or water-withholding molting to extend the laying cycle, a practice already prohibited by the United Egg Producers Certified program adhered to by a majority of egg farmers;
  • Require standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for euthanasia for egg laying hens;
  • Prohibit excessive ammonia levels in hen houses;
  • Prohibit the sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don't meet these requirements.

Unfortunately, changes don't have to be fully implemented for a period of 15 to 18 years after the bill is signed into law, and it does nothing for birds which are raised for the dinner table. So, while this is a positive step in the right direction, more work is clearly needed to improve the living conditions of food animals.

In the meantime, buying food produced from free range and/or certified organically grown animals, whenever economically feasible, is an excellent way to reward responsible farmers. On the other hand, if you're not the kind of person who can get worked up over the living conditions of food animals, there's still a great culinary reason to buy food produced from free range and/or certified organically grown animals, whenever economically feasible. Namely, there's some truth to the idea that happy animals are tasty animals.

No comments:

Post a Comment