ALDF Urges Lawmakers to Enact Federal Legislation to Protect Egg Laying Hens; Industry Capitulates on Groups’ Demand to tell Consumers Where Their Eggs Come From

Posted on July 7, 2011

All Eggs Will Be Labeled "Caged," "Cage-Free," or "Free-Range"

For immediate release

Carter Dillard, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Caged hensToday the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers announced an historic compromise promoting first of its kind federal legislation to protect farmed animals, specifically egg laying hens. Part of the agreement involves the industry capitulating to federal rulemaking petitions filed earlier in the year by the animal protection groups Compassion Over Killing and ALDF that would have forced industry to tell consumers the truth about how hens that produce eggs live. The industry now supports rules that require all eggs to be labeled “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” or “eggs from free-range hens” with strict requirements for what those labels mean.

“Consumers have a right to know how the hens that produce their eggs live and it’s high time industry came clean and stopped misleading consumers,” said Stephen Wells, ALDF’s Executive Director. “If Congress moves quickly to pass legislation we can avoid an expensive lawsuit.”   Compassion Over Killing and ALDF had filed federal rulemaking petitions earlier in the year that would have forced, through a lawsuit if necessary, federal regulators to require the same labeling industry now supports.

Today some 92 percent of egg-laying hens in the United States live miserable lives in barren battery cages so small the animals can’t even spread their wings. The compromise would replace the existing cages, through a phase-in, with new “enriched colony cages” nearly double the amount of space currently allotted, and would include perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas. The compromise would also prohibit forced molting through starvation, mandate euthanasia standards for spent hens, prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses, and most importantly prohibit the sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements.

“Farmed animals vastly outnumber all other animals in the U.S. but have been almost totally denied federal protection,” said Wells. “While we are disappointed that the phase-in period will take up to 18 years and there is still much work to be done to assure humane treatment of laying hens and other farmed animals, this compromise is a historic first step towards our country joining other progressive nations in eventually extending basic protections to billions of animals, and we urge Congress to get to work on enacting the law as quickly and strictly as possible.”

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