After my article, Who Really Benefits from the Egg Industry Deal? was posted today, I received the following email message from Sharon Harmon, executive director of the Oregon Humane Society in response. She has given me permission to post it here.
While are excited about the prospect of a national ban on barren battery cages for laying hens, we are concerned about the preemption of state laws already in place when and if, this agreement becomes law.
Oregon animal welfare advocates, industry and legislators worked together over the past several months to pass SB 805, the laying hen welfare act. This comprehensive standard of care, now law in Oregon, is in some ways, more strict than the scant details of the agreement disclosed so far. Interestingly, HSUS campaigned heavily against SB 805, yet the agreement looks remarkably similar SB 805.
We agree industry needs a level playing field to succeed but we hope that in the effort to provide certainty we don’t lose ground in the local effort to protect farm animals.
I then asked Harmon what she knew, if anything, about the HSUS negotiations. Her reply:
SB805 started out as an HSUS bill simply as a precursor to a ballot initiative. We, the Oregon Humane Society, an entity completely unrelated to HSUS, raised concerns from the start about it exempting the birds producing eggs for the liquid egg trade and out of state eggs wouldn’t be held to the same standard as those produced in Oregon.
HSUS backed away from SB805 and we were asked by the Senate President to participate in a work group to create a solution legislatively instead of the divisive ballot initiative campaign.
HSUS put a lot of effort into lobbying against SB805. To say it was a shock to see them endorse essentially the same system after referring to the bill as “the illusion of reform” is an understatement. It’s a good move for HSUS, UEP and ultimately the hens. HSUS deserves credit for starting the discussion and prompting action. I’m proud of the work done in Oregon and moreover, the process of crafting the law was collaborative and respectful with industry as full partners in crafting a solution.
I was not looking forward to a bloody ballot initiative campaign with simplistic sound bites. It’s a complex issue that deserves more consideration than 8 second statements. Cage free doesn’t mean free of cages and hens deserve more than just a slightly more space. Complete husbandry provisions are very important to us, not just more room.
I didn’t know HSUS was working with UEP. I thought there was move afoot to create a national standard but I wasn’t aware of anything more than ballot measure campaign threats and a wish for uniformity. Another smart move by UEP, they have been leading their industry along through voluntary certification programs for UEP members. However, plenty of producers are not UEP members, giving dim hope to ending battery cages once and for all unless there is federal standard.