Schrader introduces egg bill
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 1:29 PM
By DAN WHEAT
Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader introduced his bill establishing federal standards for the welfare of egg-laying hens on Jan. 23, but not all animal rights groups support it.
Humane Farming Association of San Rafael, Calif., has launched a petition drive against the bill, HR3798, calling it the "Rotten Egg Deal."
The association said on its website Schrader's bill would lock hens in cages forever and prevents further efforts to have hens cage-free.
The association said the bill:
* Nullifies existing state laws that ban or restrict battery cages.
* Deprives voters of the right and ability to pass ballot measures banning cages.
* Denies state legislatures the ability to enact laws preventing cruelty to laying hens.
Chris Huckleberry, Schrader's legislative director, acknowledged those points insofar as a federal law would supersede state laws.
"The whole idea is federal standards for consistency for animal welfare and to allow farmers to maintain their business models," Huckleberry said.
"Our bill has the support of all the major animal welfare groups. The Humane Farming Association is more of a fringe group. They want all hens cage-free. They want to continue to push state initiatives which are completely unfeasible," he said.
The association could not be reached for comment.
"This egg industry legislation is rotten to its core. It would establish egg factory cages as a national standard that could never be challenged or changed," the association states in an online petition it is gathering signatures for to send to Congress.
The association was founded in 1985 and claims more than 250,000 members.
Schrader's bill embodies a July agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers. It requires the nation's egg producers to switch to larger, enriched-colony cages for egg-laying hens over 15 to 18 years at a cost UEP has estimated at $4 billion.
It is opposed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Egg Farmers of America, the National Turkey Federation and three other groups that fear the precedent of federal law governing animal care will ultimately hurt their members' livelihoods.
Huckleberry said animal rights groups, beside HSUS, supporting the bill are: the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, Animal Legal Defense Fund, World Society for Protection of Animals and Compassion in World Farming.
Co-sponsors of the bill are California Reps. Elton Gallegly and Jeff Denham, Republicans, and Democrat Sam Farr. Schrader, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, is a Democrat.
"We anticipate others will join us," Huckleberry said.
The bill will go to the agriculture committee and perhaps an additional committee, he said, "and either nothing will happen or we will get a hearing."