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Published July 18, 2011, 10:01 PM

Groups differ on hen cage legislation

WASHINGTON — An international farm animal welfare group said a recent agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers to work toward federal legislation requiring larger cages for egg laying hens would bring the U.S. broadly in line with the European Union position, while the National Pork Producers Council expressed alarm at the agreement.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Special to Agweek

WASHINGTON — An international farm animal welfare group said a recent agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers to work toward federal legislation requiring larger cages for egg laying hens would bring the U.S. broadly in line with the European Union position, while the National Pork Producers Council expressed alarm at the agreement.

“We welcome the news of an agreement that could see an end to barren battery cages in the USA,” Compassion in World Farming Chief Executive Philip Lymbery said in a statement.

“The overwhelming majority of America’s 280 million hens are confined in barren cages that cause great suffering,” Lymbery said. “We believe all egg-laying hens should live cage-free lives, rather than confined in battery cages where they cannot even stretch their wings. This new development, whilst not going far enough, is a significant step in the right direction.”

Concerns from pork producers

Meanwhile, the National Pork Producers Council said in a statement that such legislation “would set a dangerous precedent for allowing the federal government to dictate how livestock and poultry producers raise and care for their animals. It would inject the federal government into the marketplace with no measureable benefit to public or animal health and welfare.”

“NPPC is gravely concerned that such a one-size-fits-all approach will take away producers’ freedom to operate in a way that’s best for their animals, make it difficult to respond to consumer demands, raise retail meat prices and take away consumer choice, devastate niche producers and, at a time of constrained budgets for agriculture, redirect valuable resources from enhancing food safety and maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture to regulating on-farm production practices for reasons other than public health and welfare,” the statement said.

“NPPC also is concerned about the uncertainty such legislation would generate among U.S. pork producers, who use a variety of production and housing systems.”

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