HSVMA Supports Federal Legislation Addressing Hen Welfare
Friday, February 17, 2012 02:52 PM

HSVMA Supports Federal Legislation Addressing Hen Welfare

February 17, 2012

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association joins with a broad coalition of animal protection, egg industry, family farming, and consumer groups, in endorsing H.R. 3798, federal legislation that would set uniform animal welfare standards for an estimated 280 million egg-laying hens nationwide. This legislation is the result of an agreement between The Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers, the nation’s largest egg industry group.

The HSVMA also applauds the American Veterinary Medical Association and leading scientists in the agriculture industry for their support of H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012. Renowned animal science expert Dr. Temple Grandin said she wants to see H.R. 3798 pass, and stated, “Enriched colony housing is a system that the egg industry should adopt.” View the full list of endorsers here.

H.R. 3798 is sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan coalition of legislators, led by Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, the only veterinarian in Congress. It has the support of all the major stakeholders, including animal welfare groups, consumer groups, the egg industry, and the veterinary profession.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with bill’s sponsors and the veterinary community as a whole to help ensure passage of this critically important animal welfare legislation,” said Dr. Paula Kislak, president of the HSVMA Board of Directors. “As experts in animal health and welfare, it is our professional responsibility to support such important reform.”

“H.R. 3798 has the potential to improve the lives of millions of hens nationwide by nearly doubling the space per bird, providing environmental enrichments and other welfare reforms,” said Dr. Gary Block, another HSVMA Board member. “We’re proud to join the coalition in supporting such science-based animal welfare legislation.”

Specifically, H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 would:

  • require, during an ample phase-in period, that conventional cages be replaced with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide each egg-laying hen nearly twice the amount of space per bird;
  • require, after a phase-in period, that all egg-laying hens receive environmental enrichments, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas, that will allow them to express natural behaviors;
  • prohibit forced starvation molting, which uses the withdrawal of food or water to extend the laying cycle—a practice already prohibited by the United Egg Producers’ Certified program;
  • require that euthanasia of egg-laying hens conforms to standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association;
  • prohibit excessive ammonia levels in hen housing;
  • mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs—“eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” or “eggs from free-range hens;” and
  • prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that do not meet these requirements.

Currently, the majority of the 280 million egg-laying hens are each given 67 square inches of space; some receive just 48 square inches. The proposed phase-in culminates with a nationwide minimum of 124 square inches of space for white hens and 144 for brown hens.

If enacted, H.R. 3798 would require producers to increase per-hen space in a tiered fashion, with the amount of space given to hens increasing, in intervals, over the next 15 to 18 years. Phase-in schedules would be more rapid in California, consistent with a farm animal welfare ballot initiative approved by state voters in 2008.

HSVMA encourages all veterinary professionals to contact your federal elected officials and urge their support and cosponsorship of H.R. 3798. Read about this legislation, and find contact information for your federally elected officials here.