Hen welfare updates

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2012:

Los Angeles U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter on September 12, 2012 dismissed a case brought by the California Association of Egg Farmers which sought to overturn the hen housing requirements of Proposition Two, passed by voters in November 2008, as unconstitutionally vague.  The focal question, Walter found, was whether Proposition Two required California egg farms to be cage-free.  “There is nothing in the language of Proposition Two that requires California egg farms to be cage-free,” Walter concluded. “The statute is clear that, provided the cage does not prevent the egg-laying hen from lying down, standing up, fully extending her limbs and wings without touching the side of the cage or other egg-laying hens, or turning in a complete circle without any impediment and without touching the side of the cage, the use of such a cage would not violate Proposition Two.”  Walter added that the answer to the question of how much space this actually requires “is certainly not a mystery and is capable of easy determination by egg farmers.”

The Belgian newspaper De Standaard reported on September 5, 2012 that almost all Belgian egg producers had reached compliance–often weeks late–with a European Union requirement that they must switch from battery caging to use of larger colony cages.

The EU rule took effect at the start of 2012, but the Belgian Federal Animal Welfare Authority extended the transition period to July 31, 2012.

The Socioeconomic Cabinet of Israel, chaired by finance minister Yuval Steinitz and also including the ministers for agriculture and the environment, on August 1, 2012 announced that Israeli egg farmers must move toward meeting the European Union hen caging standards, the Jerusalem Post reported, with a seven-year phase-in interval allowed from January 1, 2013, and may no longer starve hens to induce “forced molts,” bringing a renewed egg-laying cycle. Bhutan, a Himalyan Buddhist nation of fewer than 750,000 people, 60% of whom work in agriculture,  on August 5, 2012 ordered than hens may not be caged.  The Animal Welfare Board of Arunchal Pradesh, India, a state bordering Bhutan, on June 18, 2012 ordered that hens may no longer be kept either in battery cages or locally made small baskets, used by some villagers in lieu of battery caging. Farmers in Jalisco state, Mexico, killed 22.3 million birds, mostly hens, and vaccinated 140 million more between June and August 2012 to contain an outbreak of AH7N3 avian flu, the National Food Health  Safety, & Quality Service disclosed on September 12, 2012.  The AH7N3 avian flu variant is not transmissible to humans.  The National Food Health Safety, & Quality Service did not comment on the probable role in spreading AH7N3 of cockfighters transporting birds.  Cockfighters have been extensively implicated in Asian avian flu outbreaks and in outbreaks of Newcastle disease, a fungal infection of poultry, in the United States.

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