It’s not often that the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers are willing to get on the same page. As a matter of fact, most of the time it’s the exact opposite – for years, the two organizations have been at odds over rules and regulations in the egg-farming industry. But this week, in what can only be described as a landmark decision, the Humane Society and the United Egg Producers have come together in support of a new set of regulations for the egg industry which, if approved, would be the first federal legislation on animal cruelty in 30 years.
According to Huffington Post, the regulations included in this piece of legislation would ban the use of “battery cages” for housing egg-laying hens. These 18”x20” battery cages are often home to between four and eight chickens, living in quarters so cramped they cannot move – only lay eggs and sleep where they stand. The new regulations would require trading these battery cages in for what’s known as “enriched colony cages.” In contrast, these cages give each chicken double the floor space, plus perches and extra areas for scratching and nesting, thereby allowing chickens to live more comfortably and naturally.
Some states like California have recently passed their own regulations regarding battery cages, but United Egg Producers sees value in regulations across the board. “We know that the enriched cages seem to have a lot of advantages over traditional cage systems, and they also have some advantages over cage free," UEP spokesperson Mitch Head told the Huffington Post. "There's also the fact that a single national standard is preferable to a patchwork of state regulations—for our producers, our customers and for consumers."
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Head went on to explain that, since participation in UEP is voluntary, calling for higher standards in the organization alone could push resistant egg farmers away, making federal regulations a necessary step: "if you just made the new cages voluntarily, you might only have 10 or 15% of the industry that would participate.”
Meanwhile, representatives of the Humane Society acknowledge that enriched colony cages may not be the free-roaming ideal, but they are certainly a positive step forward for the egg farming industry and one that the Humane Society is willing to help work toward. “We always feel that if we can work with the folks who are handling the animals and get them to agree to improve standards, that’s the best outcome,” Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle told the New York Times. “We don’t have to be locked in combat forever. That’s not our goal. Our goal is the welfare of animal.”
Both organizations have vowed to give their support to this legislation, which could take up to a year to pass through Congress. If passed, it would be phased into effect over the next 18 years and could cost up to $4 billion. But for those egg-laying hens living a better life, and for other livestock that could see better treatment in the future as a result of this legislation, it’s priceless.