ALDF Defending Birds in the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Posted by Chris Berry, ALDF's Litigation Fellow on November 20, 2012

ALDF’s Litigation Program is going to court this week to shed light on the living condition of hens in the egg industry. It’s well known that 95% of the 300 million egg-laying hens in the United States live in a battery cage housing system. These cages line the inside of giant industrial barns like boxes in a warehouse. Each bird crammed in these cages has as much space as a single sheet of paper. The cages often become filled with waste and dead birds because there are not enough workers to properly monitor the tens or hundreds of thousands of birds at the facility. Not only are the conditions horrid for animal welfare but they are associated with higher rates of food-borne diseases like Salmonella.

The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) inspects these egg production facilities to ensure food safety and records data including the cage size, birds per cage, and hen population. ALDF sought this information about Texas egg producers pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) but the FDA is withholding it in order to protect the competitive position of the producers. ALDF sued the FDA this August in protest because the conditions at issue are set by industry standards and therefore public disclosure will not hurt the egg producers position amongst their competitors. We will be going to court this week to discuss our litigation plan with the judge and hope to resolve the lawsuit early next year.

The FOIA case against the FDA is part of a larger effort by ALDF to hold the egg industry accountable for subjecting birds to the horrors of battery cage housing. The FOIA request targeted Texas egg farms because ALDF is engaged in an important case there to ensure administration of state law that prohibits overcrowding birds or keeping them in unsanitary conditions. Texas state agencies refused to enforce the law after deplorable conditions at Cal-Maine, a Texas egg company, were caught on video.

In addition to our legal efforts to help birds this week, many ALDF staff members will be eating cruelty-free. Delicious meat-free roasts like Tofurkey are available at most grocery stores now and are the perfect substitute for a turkey. The use of eggs in desserts and other dishes can also be easily avoided with plant-based substitutes. Check out this link for some great Thanksgiving recipes.