Both sides are carefully calling the agreement between the nation’s egg producers and HSUS leadership a “victory.” For industry, that means that two ballot measures set for November that would have asked Oregon and Washington voters to ban the use of cages in egg production will now be withdrawn.
Why? Mostly because the odds of victory were looking less certain for HSUS.
In Oregon, under a new law, (originally Senate Bill 805) signed by Oregon’s Gov. John Kitzhaberon June 17,commercial farm owners or operatorswould be prohibited from confining egg-laying hens in cages that fail to comply with new rules adopted by state Department of Agriculture. The lawspecifically states that:
“Each egg-laying hen has at least 1½ half square feet ofindividually usable floor space; and that an egg-laying hen has sufficient space to fully extendand flap both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or another egg-laying hen; that hens can turn around freely, meaning that an egg-laying hen isable to turn in a complete circle without any impediment andwithout touching the side of an enclosure or another egg-laying hen; and that an egg-laying enclosure not be stacked or otherwise placed above or below anotherenclosure.”
That is essentially the same language that HSUS has consistently used to backstop its relentless campaigning for a ban on so-called battery cages in egg production. “Hens must have the ability to express their natural behaviors,” the HSUS website states—as is, “turning around freely in a complete circle without any impediment.”
Greg Satrum, owner of Willamette Egg Farmsin Canby, Ore., and president of the Northwest Poultry Council, noted that his company operates both conventional egg-laying barns and newer barns that provide the enriched cages. “We’re eventually moving toward using the enriched cages at our operations,” he said.
Oregon consumers have responded well to the sales of eggs produced by hens at Willamette’s enriched housing operation, Satrum added.
So it’s safe able to assume thatthe impact HSUS’s planned ballot initiative in Oregon this fall that would have prohibited all cages on commercial egg farms might not emerge as a top priority for voters there, even in a state known for its progressive stance on many issues.
Veterinarians just say no
Meanwhile, in Washington state, when the leadership of the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association met in April 2011, they heard four presentations representing all sides of the cages on egg farms issue—including the merits of a bill in the Washington legislature (SB 5487) and HSUS’s proposed ballot initiative I-1130 that would ban the use of cages in egg production (see, “When HSUS Comes to Town,” Feb. 17, 2011).