U.S. Egg Products Bill in limbo

A rooster and a hen.

On Monday, June 18, the U.S. Senate declined to take a vote on the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 (S. 3239)  The bill is pending in the House and may still come up for a vote.

It is believed by congressional experts that the bill has only a very slim chance of being passed into law.

The presence of the bill in congress does serve the purpose of highlighting the plight of the 300 million or so chickens who currently live their lives confined in battery cages in the U.S.

Key provisions of the bill (to be phased in over 15 – 18 years) would require

One – That each hen have a minimum of 124” of space (for white hens) or 144” of space (for brown hens, who are larger). (This may not sound like much, but it’s more space than hens are currently allowed.)

Two – Provide for humane euthanasia – current methods are extremely inhumane.

Three – Require perches and nesting spaces.

Four  — Require labeling that reflects that actual conditions in which the hens are kept, such as “free-range”, “cage-free”, “caged”, “enriched cages”, so consumers of egg products can make informed choices.

Five – Prohibit withholding of food and water, which is currently employed as a method of increasing egg-laying production.

Six – Require improved air quality.

Pre-empting state and local laws

One of the most controversial aspects of the bill is that it would pre-empt any state or local regulations, present or future, which would require more living space for each egg-laying hen, thus effectively forestalling any further legislative action to give hens more space.

No future laws could require hens to be given more space or to be free-range.  The cruel system of factory farming with battery caged hens would be enshrined in federal law in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.  Battery cages could not be banned in years to come.

On other hand, the bill’s supporters argue that the likelihood of battery cages being banned in the U.S. any time soon is around zero, so any improvement, even if minimal, in the lives of the hens would be a good thing.

Here are a few varying perspectives on this bill:

A view from Animal Rights. About.com, click here.

A view from Animal People Online, click here.

A view from United Poultry Concern, click here.

Photo: Andrei Niemimäki from Turku, Finland / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.” / A rooster and a hen.

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