The Egg Industry and the End of Cruel Battery Cages

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sat, 12/20/2008 - 4:18am.



Although eggs aren't something we normally consider when we look back over 2008, the year now winding down indeed marked a turning point for the egg industry. Just over one month ago, Californians voted in a landslide to pass Proposition 2, which phases out one of the egg industry's most prevalent-and most abusive-practices.

Receiving more than eight million votes, the measure was the most popular of 12 initiatives on the state's ballot and has implications far beyond the state's borders.

Prop 2 phases out "battery cages," which the egg industry uses to confine most of the country's 280 million egg-laying hens. These tiny cages confine several birds apiece. The average stocking density could hardly be more restrictive: only 67 square inches per bird. In other words, each caged hen has less space than a sheet of letter-sized paper on which to spend her entire life.

It's hard to imagine a worse fate.

Battery-caged birds can't engage in many of their most important natural behaviors. The restrictive, barren cages prohibit them from spreading their wings, nesting, perching and dust bathing, forming a positive social hierarchy, and even walking. Their lives truly are miserable.

Prop 2 was the first time that voters had an opportunity to ban battery cages. Their voices couldn't be clearer: more than eight million of them, or 63.5% of the electorate, voted in support of Prop 2. And now the question will become whether the egg industry will do better when it comes to animal welfare.

Indeed, many egg producers manage birds without battery cages. These birds still don't go outside and, like their battery caged counterparts, may still have part of their beaks cut off.

They can, however, walk, perch, dustbathe and lay their eggs in nests --all behaviors permanently denied to hens confined in battery cages.

The industry would do well to provide laying hens with at least these basic improvements offered by non-caged systems, preferably with an eye to allowing outdoor pasture access in the future and simultaneously discontinuing beak trimming.

Drs. Ian Duncan and Sara Shields, conclude: "Regardless of how a battery-cage confinement system is managed, all caged hens are permanently denied the opportunity to express most of their basic behavior within their natural repertoire.

The science is clear that this deprivation represents a serious inherent welfare disadvantage compared to any cage-free production system."

Battery cage confinement also presents serious food safety concerns. Some studies have found that caged flocks have 20 to 25 times the odds of salmonella contamination than non-caged flocks (1,2). And esteemed organizations such as the Center for Food Safety endorsed Prop 2 and called for an end to battery cages. (3)

Further, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production-an independent panel chaired by former Kansas Governor John Carlin that included former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman-concluded that the egg industry should phase out the confinement of laying hens in battery cages because they don't allow birds to exhibit normal pecking, scratching and roosting behaviors.

The standard industry practice of confining laying hens in cages is an institutionalized cruelty that must be abolished. It's heartening to see that farm animal welfare is getting increased attention in public policy. But Big Agribusiness needs to stop fighting common-sense reforms. As we move into 2009, food safety and undeniable public concern for animal welfare are two good reasons to do just that.

Diane Halverson - December 18, 2008 - source OpedNews


 Diane Halverson is Senior Farm Animal Program Specialist for the Animal Welfare Institute. ~



1 Namata H, Méroc E, Aerts M, et al. 2008. Salmonella in Belgian laying hens: an identification of risk factors. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 83(3-4):323-36.

2 European Food Safety Authority. 2007. Report of the Task Force on Zoonoses Data Collection on the Analysis of the baseline study on the prevalence of Salmonella in holdings of laying hen flocks of Gallus gallus. The EFSA Journal 97. Accessed August 26, 2008.

3 Californians for Humane Farms. 2008. Yes on 2 packet. July 30.


Be sure to read Robert Singer's response to this article... (see comments below) S.I.A.


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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sat, 12/20/2008 - 4:18am.


Robert Singer (not verified) | Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:47am

The following is a positive message to Wayne about Vegan Education.
If you agree with the message let Wayne know your thoughts and please cross post.
Be sure and CC: me in your message.

Thank you, as you can see from the Sept 22 letter to Wayne below, Subject: Vote YES, Prop 2 is for YOU!

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Robert Singer
To: Wayne Pacelle

Sent: Monday, December 8, 2008 6:04:38 PM
Subject: Standup for the Planet, A life connected, For the People, For the Planet, For the Animals!


Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I am now writing for two other websites in addition to OpeEdNews.

Continuing the dialogue we began in September with my memo, "Vote YES, Prop 2 is for YOU!", the next step would be a National Media Campaign to raise awareness about how a plant based diet will solve the environmental problems we face today.

I have found the perfect video HSUS can air on National Television.

A Life Connected a project by

The video was produced with 5 separate messages about 2 minutes each, making it ideal for a commercial "spot" on television.

The only thing I would change is the term Vegan to Plant Based Diet.

A National Media campaign around A life Connected will energize your supporters asking for more Vegan education and silence your critics once and for all.

Let's talk later in the week,

Bob Singer

Mr. Wayne Pacelle
President and CEO
The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

September 22, 2008

RE: Vote YES, Prop 2 is for YOU!
Thank you for your call last week, I was grateful to have the opportunity to talk to you about this very important issue and look forward to working with you to Pass Prop 2.

As you know support for Prop 2 is eroding. Leading animal rights/welfare and vegan advocacy groups together with more and more signature-gathers are questioning the benefits of an initiative that is such a small step in our quest to make the world a better place for humans and non-humans.
Agribusiness opposition led by Patti Strand, National Director NAIA Trust, will be making a compelling case against Prop 2 as we get closer to the election.

Their arguments will be:
This time, the vegan authors of Proposition 2 have created a measure that is not only unnecessary and unreasonable, but one that also threatens the health and well being of the hens it is suppose to protect and the people who eat their eggs. Proposition 2 would ban almost all modern egg production in California, outlawing scientifically approved and well-established methods used by farmers for decades to safely house hens.

California Proposition 2 will outsource egg production.
Californians need to understand that they are being asked to overhaul egg farming in their state by a vegan-led national organization – a group that has no personal dietary stake in the availability, safety or quality of eggs.

Proposition 2 is too RISKY. Californians enjoy safe, local, affordable eggs. A UC Davis study says Proposition 2 eliminates California egg production. Instead, our eggs will come from out-of-state and Mexico. Public health experts oppose Proposition 2 because it THREATENS increased human exposure to Salmonella and Bird Flu. Vote No.

Wayne, there is a real chance Prop 2 will fail. What a tragic waste of time, money, and the loss of this historic opportunity to make a real difference. When the ballots are counted it won't be the size of the cages that matter it will be how far we moved the ball forward to end animal exploitation. Prop 2 is a chance for us to raise awareness about the impact of our choices every time we put food in our mouths. I congratulate you and the others at HSUS who have chosen to be go Vegan.

But if the campaign continues to focus on the cruelty issue then, whether it passes or fails, all that will have been accomplished is to make people feel good about eating animals because they voted to increase the size of the cage.
We need to change the focus of the Prop 2 message to keep it from failing.

The opposition has painted a Vegan picture of the supporters and will control the message to make us look foolish at putting forth such a questionable proposition to the public. Before that happens we need to change the campaign to emphasize that Prop 2 is a vehicle toward treating the planet humanely, not just its animals. Prop 2's message today attempts to change the way animals are raised for food--they will now have the opportunity to turn around in their cages and extend their limbs but it needs to address the effect of our decisions on animals, the planet and environment every time we order that hamburger or fried chicken. If we do this, the opposition will be blunted and your outspoken critics will be silenced and might actually support Prop 2, I know I will.

The next phase of the campaign will feature
Vote YES, Prop 2 is for YOU.

"California's Proposition 2 is the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, and is an important step toward ending our reliance on factory-farmed meat.

Factory farms rank with other major categories of environmental damage that threaten our planet's future. We need to address the degradation of our food supply before it is too late. Proposition 2 is a start.

Our treatment of animals is a measure of our respect for the earth."

This change needs to be made before it is too late – Prop 2 is not just about the animals having an opportunity to turn around and extend their limbs" but how the choices we make, as humans, affect animals, the environment and our health.
After speaking with you on the phone, I was moved by your sincerity about making a difference in ending animal cruelty. I am convinced you and I can get this message to your supporters, the board of directors, the signature gathers and the public if we work together.

Lets talk about this after you have had a chance to review it.

Vote YES, Prop 2 is for YOU!

Bob Singer
2008 California For Humane Farms Statewide Signature Gathering Champion