American Humane Association deal with egg producer may undercut California standards

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2010:


SACRAMENTO–Humane Society of the U.S. factory farming
campaign senior director Paul Shapiro rejoiced on July 7, 2010 when
California Governor Arnold Schwarz-enegger signed AB 1437, to
require that all eggs sold in California be produced under conditions
meeting the welfare standards for laying hens kept in California that
were established by the passage of Proposition Two in November 2008.
Shapiro called AB 1437 “a bill that will require all whole
eggs sold in California by 2015 to come from hens who can stand up,
lie down, turn around, and fully extend their limbs. In other
words: cage-free.”
Shapiro was scarcely alone in his understanding.
Editorialized The New York Times, “Since California does not produce
all the eggs it eats, this new law will have a wider effect on the
industry; every producer who hopes to sell eggs in the state must
meet its regulations. There is no justification, economic or
otherwise,” The New York Times added. “Industrial confinement is
cruel and senseless,” the editorialists wrote, “and will turn out
to be, we hope, a relatively short-lived anomaly in modern farming.”

But the American Humane Associ-ation on June 18, 2010
announced a deal with the egg producer J.S. West, of Modesto,
California, which holds that Proposition Two allows the use of
“enriched” cages like those that must be used in the European Union
by 2012, in place of traditional battery caging.
After J.S. West invested $3.2 million in becoming the first
major U.S. producer known to use “enriched” cages, the AHA
authorized J.S. West to use the “American Humane Certified” logo.
“The new cages provide about twice as much space as
traditional battery cages,” observed Ken Anderson of Brownfield Ag
News. “However, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle says research shows
that hens need 138 square inches to fully stretch their wings.
Enriched colony systems provide each hen with 116 square inches.
There is also ambiguity over how the law is going to be enforced, or
by whom,” Anderson wrote. “According to California state
legislators, no decision has been made on who will have the final
“There’s going to be a legal wrangle over this,” Pacelle
predicted to New York Times reporter Erik Eckholm.
“An “enriched” cage has a tiny perch and nest box, and maybe
a little box of sand or wood shavings for the hens to scratch and
dust-bathe in,” explained a coalition of eight chicken sanctuaries
headed by United Poultry Concerns in a joint statement of objection.
“The hens have ‘extra’ space, about the size of a post card, in a
metal/plastic environment. The “enriched” cages are stacked six to
12 tiers high. Depending on size and design, each cage holds from
10 to 60 hens.
“Industrial chicken houses are densely polluted with toxic
gases and airborne debris–floating feathers, dander, and
pathogens,” the sanctuarians noted. “Thous-ands of little sandboxes
will increase the airborne debris in the caged environment, and will
increase respiratory and eye irritation.” In addition, the
sanctuarians said, “‘enriched’ cages will make meaningful inspection
of the hens–already next to impossible–even harder,” because of
the difficulty in evaluating the condition of a hen whose body is
partially concealed in a nest box.
“Realizing that no commercial confinement system can ever
meet the complex behavioral and cognitive needs and interests of
chickens,” the sanctuarians concluded, “and even assuming that
‘enriched’ cages inflict less total misery on hens than barren cages,
the cage system is inherently cruel and inhumane and needs to be
eliminated completely.”

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