Earlier this month, in an historic compromise between the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP), citizens’ initiatives in the states of Washington and Oregon were put on hold in exchange for a commitment from UEP to work jointly with HSUS in support of a federal law to prohibit the cruel confinement of egg laying hens in barren battery cages. Although the UEP has defended battery cages for years, asserting that they promote animal welfare and food safety, the trade organization has come to recognize that the use of these cages is outside the bounds of acceptable conduct in our society.
The vast majority of citizens believe that farm animals deserve to be treated with respect, and they oppose commonly employed factory farming practices. With the UEP agreement, the egg industry has joined the pork industry and the veal industry, which have announced plans to phase out gestation crates and veal crates, respectively. Farm Sanctuary and our colleagues have exposed and challenged these inhumane confinement systems for decades, and we’re finally seeing progress, especially over the past ten years.
The UEP agreement is particularly important in that it calls for federal legislation. This will be the first nationwide law to address the welfare of animals on farms, and it could lead to other federal legislation addressing farmed animal welfare in the future, a possibility that has other industry groups concerned.
The UEP/HSUS agreement goes beyond just cage size and conformation. It will also require that eggs be labeled according to how the hens who laid them are housed, which will remind consumers that their eggs come from real, living animals and will help increase awareness about the consequences of their food choices. Everybody, except proponents of the factory farming industry, benefits when citizens make more informed and conscientious food choices, opting for foods that are more healthful, humane and environmentally sustainable.
Change occurs through the adoption of new laws and policies, like the HSUS/UEP agreement, and through consumer choices, which collectively define market trends. On both fronts, we are beginning to see positive signs. Still, there is an awful long way to go, and it is absolutely crucial that we keep pushing for improvements. Stay tuned to help enact the HSUS/UEP measure in Washington, DC, in the near future. In the meantime, you can vote with your dollars every day by choosing to eat plant foods instead of animal foods.