Hen protection: Why the meat industry has a problem with federal hen protection bill
Earlier this year, Rep. Kurt Schraeder (D-OR, and the only veterinarian in Congress) introduced the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments (HR 3798) that outlines a ban on the use of so-called “battery” cages on egg factory farms nationwide.
These cramped, barren metal cages — only the size of a sheet of paper — restrict movement, prevent many natural behaviors and increase rates of osteoporosis among birds kept in them.
In addition to providing more living space and environmental enrichments such as perches, nesting areas and scratching areas so hens can engage in more natural behaviors, the bill also mandates that all egg cartons sold in the U.S. include a label that clearly identifies the method of production (i.e. “eggs from caged hens”).
If passed, this would be the first-ever federal law related to the treatment of chickens raised for food. Read more about what this bill will do for laying hens.
So if the Egg Products Inspection Act is all about birds, why is the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) up in arms about it?
According to a recent video, this industry trade group is taking “strong marching orders” from its members who are “extremely, extremely concerned” about the Federal Hen Protection Bill because of the precedent that it sets: “for first time ever Congress would be in the business of telling you, as producers, how to raise your livestock.”
Indeed, right now there are no federal laws overseeing the treatment of farmed animals while they’re on the farm. That’s one reason why agribusiness has been able to operate in a way that puts profit above the welfare of animals. And that’s why the NCBA and other big ag industry trade groups are working so hard to defeat this legislation.
As The New York Times recently editorialized, “it’s well past time to create a national standard that promotes more humane conditions (for egg-laying hens) everywhere. Yet the American Farm Bureau Federation, a trade group for farmers, the National Pork Producers Council, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association oppose the bill. They seem to fear that common sense and a humane regard for the well-being of farm(ed) animals will spread to their own industries.”