Washington Veterinarians Support Ballot Initiative to Protect Egg-Laying Hens

April 12, 2011

A growing number of Washington veterinarians are stepping forward to provide leadership on farm animal welfare by endorsing Initiative 1130, a statewide ballot measure that addresses some of the worst abuses that hens endure on Washington factory farms.

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) encourages any Washington veterinarian who has not yet endorsed to visit the Yes! on 1130 website to learn more and sign on in support.

Currently about six million egg-laying hens suffer in the extreme confinement of battery cages on Washington’s factory farms. Battery cages are cruel, inhumane and unsafe. Hens live in stacked cages so restrictive they can barely move, and under the current industry standard each hen has less space than a letter-sized sheet of paper on which to live for more than a year before she’s slaughtered.

A modest measure to improve animal health and food safety

Hens in battery cages (credit: The HSUS)
These hens live in stacked cages so restrictive they can barely move.

Initiative 1130, which Washingtonians for Humane Farms aims to qualify for the November 2011 ballot, would prohibit confining egg-laying hens in stacked, cramped cages and would require that hens be housed so they can freely stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their wings.

“This is a modest measure that will not only improve the lives of millions of animals in our state, but will also promote food safety,” said Dr. Brad Evergreen, a Washington veterinarian and HSVMA Leadership Council member who is helping with veterinary outreach in the state. “As veterinary professionals, the public expects us to show leadership on common-sense welfare reforms like this.”

Scientific evidence supports this reform

There is ample scientific evidence to support such reforms. As just one example, the prestigious Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a panel of experts including former Dean of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Michael Blackwell, recently concluded that the most intensive confinement systems used in animal agribusiness constitute “inhumane treatment” and recommended a complete phase-out of battery cages for laying hens.

Additionally, factory farms that cram egg-laying hens into tiny cages threaten food safety. All fifteen scientific studies published in the last five years comparing Salmonella contamination between caged and cage-free operations found that those confining hens in cages had higher rates of Salmonella, the leading cause of food poisoning related death in the United States. That’s why the Center for Food Safety endorses the YES on 1130 campaign.

Similar laws phasing out the extreme confinement of certain farm animals have already been enacted in other states including Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Michigan, Maine, Florida and California. The California measure, which passed in 2008, received the endorsement of more than 700 individual California veterinarians and that of the California Veterinary Medical Association, as well.

Washington veterinarians: Act now!

HSVMA is working with a team of Washington veterinarians to distribute information on the ballot initiative and solicit veterinary endorsements. If you are a licensed Washington veterinarian, please visit the Yes! on 1130 website for more information and to download an endorsement form.

A current list of veterinary endorsers, as well as the endorsements from a broad spectrum of animal welfare, family farming, food safety and environmental groups, is also available on the website.