SAN FRANCISCO– The Humane Farming Association (HFA) and a coalition of animal protection organizations are applauding the Senate's rejection of Senator Dianne Feinstein's controversial "Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012" (S. 3239) to the Farm Bill. Referred to by many as the Rotten Egg Bill, Feinstein's measure is modeled on a similar bill (H.R. 3798) that was introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader in the House earlier this year over the vehement objections of animal advocates nationwide.
"We applaud this Senate action which puts the rights and best interests of the American public ahead of the cynical political interests of the egg industry," said Bradley Miller, National Director of the Humane Farming Association. "The egg industry is seeking to establish egg factory cages as a national standard that could never be challenged or changed by state law or public vote," continued Miller. "Senator Feinstein's amendments would preempt state laws, such as California's Proposition 2, and is a direct assault upon egg laying hens', voters', and states' rights."
S. 3239 and H.R. 3798 would codify a controversial deal between the United Egg Producers (UEP) – the egg industry trade association recently sued for an alleged price-fixing scheme –and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is now endorsing the same egg factory cages it had long opposed.
"The Rotten Egg Bill would be disastrous for laying hens who would be forever locked in cages – as well as for millions of voters whose rights would be traded away," said Miller.
UEP Price Fixing Scandal Limits Support for Egg Bill
The Humane Farming Association had recently expanded its ad campaign to further expose UEP's price-fixing scandal. UEP and several of the egg companies it represents have been sued repeatedly for alleged illegal price fixing, paying $25 million to settle allegations that they illegally manipulated the price and supply of eggs under the guise of instituting standards for animal welfare.
With active lawsuits pending against them from companies such as General Mills and Kraft Foods – UEP and its co-defendants are asking Congress to codify a set of standards that would, in effect, provide legal cover for the very activities of which they stand accused.
"Fortunately, very few Senators appear willing to jump in the middle of an ongoing price-fixing scandal just to placate an egg industry trade association and a co-opted humane organization," said Miller.
"According to the bill's own sponsor, this was introduced to protect the economic interests of the egg industry," said Miller. "The American public overwhelmingly supports the banning of egg factory cages, not measures such as this which would ban the outlawing of cages. Such moves clearly subvert the will of the people."
Widespread Opposition From Animal Organizations, Advocates
"There is no such thing as an 'enriched' battery cage. This is an outrageous attempt by the egg industry and its cohorts to enrich themselves at the expense of laying hens and the public at large," said Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals.
"The cages defined by the legislation will in no meaningful way reduce the unimaginable suffering endured by the hens," said Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Professor Emeritus of Veterinary Medicine at U.C. Davis. (Read full statement here.)
"Even if this measure passes, the majority of hens will remain entombed in battery cages on factory farms," said Karen Davis, Ph.D., President of United Poultry Concerns. "They will be locked into a federal law administered by the USDA which does not even enforce the 54-year-old 'Humane Slaughter Act.'"
In addition to the Humane Farming Association, opponents of S. 3239 and H.R. 3798 include Associated Humane Societies, Friends of Animals, United Poultry Concerns, Last Chance for Animals, Action for Animals, Northwest Animal Rights Network, Defend Animals Coalition, Political Animals, Georgia Animal Rights and Protection, Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals, Vegan Society of Peace, Humane Farming Action Fund, Sunnyskies Bird and Animal Sanctuary, SAFE, Purpose Group International, Animals Unlimited, Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition, Chicken Run Rescue, Pasado Safe Haven, and the vast majority of animal advocates nationwide.
To deflect from its central purpose (keeping hens in cages), the Rotten Egg Bill tacks on a few diversionary provisions – all of which fall apart under scrutiny.
Ammonia Levels: While claiming to improve air quality, the bill contains nothing that alters current ammonia levels in egg factories. It merely adopts UEP's existing standards which allow toxic conditions.
As noted by Karen Davis, Ph.D., President of United Poultry Concerns:
"Ammonia levels as high as 25 ppm are defined in the bill as 'acceptable' for the hens, even though ammonia gases have been known for decades to be toxic. Chickens exposed to [the allowable] 20 ppm of ammonia are susceptible to respiratory illnesses, eye infections, immune system suppression, and severe vaccine reactions. Allowing ammonia levels to reach 25 ppm merely codifies existing industry standards."
Starvation: Proponents also claim that the bill would stop the supposed "starvation" molting of "tens of millions" of hens. Remarkably, they provide no evidence that this is occurring – let alone that it would ever justify keeping hens locked in battery cages and preempting our state laws. Far from changing anything, the bill once again merely adopts UEP's existing policy.
Fraudulent Labeling: As far as labeling egg cartons, the bill would do that. For the very first time, the fraudulent and grossly misleading euphemism "enriched cages" would begin appearing on egg cartons nationwide – in order to deflect public concern and to increase egg sales from caged hens.
The position of the Humane Farming Association and other responsible activists and organizations remains clear:
About HFA: The Humane Farming Association spearheads a national campaign against factory farming. It also operates the nation's largest farm animal rescue and refuge facility. Founded in 1985, and over 250,000 members strong, HFA is nationally recognized and respected for its hard work, its integrity, and its highly successful campaigns.
For media inquiries, contact Jill Mountjoy at 415.485.1495.