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Cage initiative gains signatures


HSUS says 275,000 signatures gathered
on petition to ban cages for hens

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

The Humane Society of the United States says it has enough signatures to get its chicken cage initiative on Washington's Nov. 8 general election ballot, and it has paid $332,000 for signature gathering.

About 275,000 signatures have been gathered on petitions to get Initiative 1130 on the ballot, said Paul Shapiro, senior director of Factory Farming Campaigns for the organization.

A total of 241,153 valid signatures of registered voters is needed by July 8, but the Secretary of State's Office recommends initiative campaigns collect 320,000 signatures to allow for duplicates and errors.

The petition drive will continue to try to get over 300,000 signatures, Shapiro said.

If more than 320,000 are received a random check is done for validity, said Kay Ramsay, programs specialist in the elections division. All signatures are checked if the random check flags too many invalid signatures or duplicates or there aren't 320,000 signatures, Ramsay said. The process will take a week or two before the secretary of state decides whether to certify I-1130 for the ballot.

Shapiro said signatures for I-1130 were gathered by a combination of volunteer and paid workers.

Washington Public Disclosure Commission records show the initiative campaign paid PCI Consultants Inc., of Calabasa, Calif., $332,504 for signature gathering. Most of that probably went to pay workers getting signatures, Shapiro said, noting that most initiative drives depend solely on paid signature gatherers but that this drive has volunteers.

If passed by voters, I-1130 would basically ban keeping egg-laying hens in cages by 2018. It would ban stacked cages in which a hen could not stand up or fully extend its wings.

HSUS is planning a similar initiative in Oregon next year.

Major egg producers in both states say the initiatives, if passed, would shut them down and cost consumers more for cage-free eggs. They have countered, through the Northwest Poultry Council, with legislative bills requiring larger "colony" cages. The Washington and Oregon legislatures have passed the bills.

"A strong majority of Washington legislators, the Washington Veterinary Medical Association, Washington farmers and the American Humane (Association) worked together to implement the most stringent hen welfare program (Senate Bill 5487)," said Greg Satrum, president of the Northwest Poultry Council and an egg producer in Oregon and Washington.

"We believe Washington has already spoken on the matter (through the bill) and Washington farmers are excited to get started converting our farms to the American Humane (Association) standard. Wasting a lot of our resources on unnecessary initiatives will only delay the improvements we want to make," Satrum said.

"This is an issue about Washington consumers, Washington hens, Washington farmers and Washington veterinarians. I don't believe we need out-of-state interest groups coming in and trying to manage our farms from the ballot box," Satrum said.

Shapiro noted that only Washington voters can put the measure on the ballot and pass it. He said HSUS has significant membership within the state and that opponents have raised significant amounts of money from outside Washington.

Satrum said virtually all opposition money has come from within the state.



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