Caged chickens

A bill introduced to the House last week could mean major housing upgrades, if you’re a chicken. Titled H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, the bill was crafted in partnership by the Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers.

Calling it a necessary move, Chad Gregory, Senior Vice President of the UEP, said of the estimated $4 billion project, “This has been an incredibly grueling process, but we’re here today excited to recognize and celebrate this monumental achievement.”

The bill would phase out the use of battery cages for egg-laying hens—currently home to some 280 million chickens in the U.S. A typical battery cage is 67 square inches—often as small as a sheet of folded up newspaper—preventing the birds from fully extending their wings, or engaging in other natural movements or behaviors. The stress of living in a battery cage often leads chickens to cases of unnatural behavior including extreme violence, cannibalism and self-destructive habits. As a result, many battery cage operators have resorted to preventative measures such as searing the beaks off of young chicks without the use of anesthetics, and adding excessive amounts of antibiotics to feed to prevent infection from pecking, fighting and other potential causes of infection. Excessive antibiotic use has led to antibiotic-resistant pathogens that cause serious human health risks.

The new proposal would eventually more than double the size of battery cages rolled out in a tiered phase over the next 15 to 18 years. In a statement released by the Humane Society, president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle called the resolution “historic and unprecedented,” and able to benefit “hundreds of millions of animals per year.”

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Image: mikecogh