Across the U.S., billions of farm animals are exploited by the agriculture industry. Viewed as mere production units, chickens, calves, pigs, and other animals on factory farms spend much of their lives crammed into tiny cages and crates. In these extreme confinement systems, the animals can’t walk, turn around or even fully stretch their limbs, causing them to suffer physically and psychologically.
Due to the strong influence wielded over the federal and state legislatures by agribusiness, many laws in the U.S. sanction inhumane treatment and unsanitary conditions, and exempt the meat, dairy and egg industries from basic animal welfare requirements. But using the voter initiative process, concerned citizens, including those in Florida, Arizona and California, have been able to fight back, collecting signatures and placing on their state ballots measures to ban cruel factory farming practices.
In Washington state, Farm Sanctuary has teamed up with HSUS and others in an effort to place on the November ballot a statewide measure preventing the cruel confinement of egg-laying hens in battery cages. Volunteers in Washington are busy collecting signatures and spreading the word. Striving to stay one step ahead, however, agribusiness interests are attempting to entrench the egg industry’s cruel practices in neighboring Oregon.
The Oregon Legislature began its current session considering a bill (S.B. 805) that would have phased out battery cage confinement. But the bill has since been co-opted by special interests in the agriculture industry. Through a series of crippling amendments, S.B. 805 has been transformed into a bill that provides merely the illusion of reform while in fact codifying the cage confinement of hens. Farm Sanctuary has joined with concerned Oregonians and a coalition of animal welfare, food safety and environmental groups to put a measure of real reform on the November 2012 ballot.
Nearly 2.5 million hens are confined in battery cages in Oregon. The new measure would require that they have enough room to extend their wings, turn around and engage in more natural behaviors. It would also require that all eggs sold in the state be produced in compliance with these standards. The language was recently submitted to the Secretary of State, and we will soon be collecting the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot. As this initiative gets underway, we will keep you posted on developing events and how you can get involved.