Update May 12, 2011: Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire has signed S.B. 5487 into law.
For more on this bill and the effort to undermine the ballot initiative to give egg laying hens more room, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.
Original report April 12, 2011: A bill that would seem to protect egg laying hens, S.B. 5487, passed the Washington House of Representatives yesterday, April 11, 2011, by a vote of 70-27. The bill has already passed the state Senate.
Instead of protecting egg laying hens, however, the bill, S.B. 5487, would actually protect the system of keeping egg laying hens in battery or colony cages where they are crammed together, each with barely the space of a piece of 8 1/2" x 11" copy paper.
The bill would allow egg producers and dealers to obtain a license or a renewal of a license if they establish by August 1, 2012 "current certification under the 2010 version of the United Egg Producers animal husbandry guidelines for United States egg laying flocks for conventional cage systems or cage-free systems as applicable, or a subsequent version".
The United Egg Producers is an industry trade group. Go here to take a look at the guidelines that UEP calls "humane". Basically, this means egg producers and dealers would be free to continue to keep egg laying hens crammed in battery cages with little or no room to move around. Ever.
Also, under the bill, only those cage systems installed after August 1, 2011 would be required to be approved by or convertible to the American Humane Association Facility System plan for "enriched colony housing". Battery cage systems installed prior to August 1, 2011 would not be affected.
And, American Humane Association’s so-called "enriched colony housing" is not really much different than a battery cage:
"Certifying" barely improved cruel industry practices, may mean more fundraising dollars from egg producers for AHA. It just doesn’t mean much for the chickens.
Under the bill egg producers or dealers with fewer than 3,000 egg laying hens would be exempt from all of these requirements.
The House version is H.B. 1813.
Why S.B. 5487 Now
The bill is an effort by the United Egg Producers to stop a citizens’ ballot initiative that would mean farm owners and operators would be required to give egg laying hens enough room to flap their wings and turn freely and could not stack their cages. The initiative is well underway and is expected to be on the 2011 ballot. The initiative would mean an end to the cruel factory farming practice of cramming egg laying hens into battery cages or colony cages where they are forced to spend their lives.
Schoesler, Brian Hatfield, Steve Hobbs, Jerome Delvin, Jim Honeyford, Randi Becker, and Paul Shin, are the senate sponsors.
Read more about the animal welfare issues addressed by 1130.