Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Animal Welfare: When is Regulation Needed?

Back in February, NPR reported on an agreement reached by Gene Gregory, the president of the United Egg Producers, and Wayne Pacelle, the president of the U.S. Humane Society, to lobby for new rules for egg farmers which would require them to provide larger cages for egg-producing chickens, along with perches and nest-boxes. The compromise came after years of bitter argument about the practice of crowding chickens into wire cages.

Now, the compromise is under attack, not by egg farmers, but by America's hog and beef producers. The National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association are lobbying against any kind of regulation because they fear that it might turn into a slippery slope. If Congress passes regulation that makes it mandatory for farmers to follow new laws for the housing of chickens, the next step might be new regulation that mandates the living conditions of hogs and cattle. 

That National Pork Producer's Council has called the egg legislation a "Federal Farm Takeover Bill" and has been lobbying Republican members of congress, saying that the new bill is likely to lead to higher prices for eggs.  And it looks as if organizations who oppose the bill are winning. The egg producers and the Humane Society had hoped to attach their proposal to the farm bill which is currently making its way through congress. The Senate has not brought up this proposal for a vote however. Its best chance, some analysts say, might be after elections are held in November. 

Meanwhile, one hopes that this partnership between United Egg Producers and the Humane Society will bear fruit, and even be emulated in other areas where the welfare of animals is under debate. 

For more information, check out NPR's article from June 11, "U.S. Pig and Cattle Producers try to Crush Egg Bill."

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