Take Action: Urge Congress to Pass First Federal Law Protecting Egg Laying Hens

Written by Erica Meier

Egg LayingCurrently in the US, more than 250 million egg laying hens are suffering inside tiny wire cages so small, they’re denied the ability to engage in some of their most natural behaviors, including walking.  With virtually no laws to protect them, these smart and social animals are subjected to some of the worst abuses imaginable and are routinely treated in ways that would result in criminal prosecution if those same abuses were inflicted upon cats or dogs. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to expose the rotten truth of egg production and promote compassionate food choices.

In 2001, Compassion Over Killing conducted our first undercover investigation inside an egg factory farm. Using still and video cameras, our investigators made their way through row upon row of battery cages documenting the routine horrors egg laying hens are forced to endure: intensive confinement, severe feather loss, untreated illness and injuries, birds immobilized in the wires of their cages, and dead birds left in cages with live hens.

In addition to going undercover ten more times to document the day-to-day miseries for animals on egg factory farms, we challenged the egg industry’s misleading “Animal Care Certified” logo and we won, we took the egg industry to court for continued misleading marketing, and we’ve been urging the Food and Drug Administration to mandate the full disclosure of egg production methods on cartons, including the clear identification of “eggs from caged hens.” Similar consumer protection measures have already been implemented in the European Union and in Australia.

We’ve also worked with several major food companies—including Quorn, Morningstar Farms, BOCA Foods, and Lightlife – to reduce or eliminate their use of eggs as well as offer more vegan options.

Now, there’s a new opportunity to help millions of egg-laying hens in the US: The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 (H.R. 3798). Compassion Over Killing is standing alongside other national animal protection organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and Mercy for Animals, in support of this newly-introduced and potentially precedent-setting bill.

Egg LayingWhat exactly would this bill do?

If passed, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 would be the first-ever federal law related to the treatment of chickens used for food—and the first federal law related to the on-farm treatment of animals raised for food.  Specifically it would:

  • Ban barren battery cages and essentially phase in double the amount of space each laying hen is presently given.
  • Require environmental enrichments for birds such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas for all hens.
  • Prohibit forced molting through starvation, an inhumane practice that involves withholding all food from birds for up to two weeks in order to manipulate the laying cycle. Tens of millions of hens in the country still endure this cruelty today.
  • Prohibit the sale of eggs and egg products in the U.S. that don’t meet these requirements.
  • Mandate that all egg cartons sold in the U.S. clearly identify the method of production; such as “Eggs from Caged Hens.”

Who opposes this bill?  National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry, Association, National Farmers Union, National Turkey Federation, National Milk Producers Federation, and Egg Farmers of America.

In a recent letter to members of Congress, these agribusiness giants stated:

“While we think this proposal is an unconscionable federal overreach, our gravest concern is that this precedent could leach into all corners of animal farming.” 

Take Action Now: Contact your federal representatives asking them to support the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 (H.R. 3798).

While Compassion Over Killing firmly believes that the most effective step each of us can take to protect egg laying hens is to simply leave eggs off our plates – and we’re thrilled to report that per capita egg consumption has been steadily decreasing since 2006 – this landmark legislation is an important step forward in reducing the suffering endured by more 250 million birds.

Read more about the egg industry and other ways you can make a difference.