United Egg Producers and the Humane Society, working together?
From the New York Times:
The groups said they would ask Congress to pass a law enacting the new standards, which they said would be the first federal law addressing the treatment of farm animals and would pre-empt efforts in several states to set their own standards.
The proposed federal standards would include cages that give hens up to 144 square inches of space each, compared with the 67 square inches that most hens have today. They would also include so-called habitat enrichments, like perches, scratching areas and nesting areas, that allow the birds to express natural behavior.
The two groups met in the middle: HSUS was pushing for a complete ban on cages, and United Egg Producers has been trying to boost its image after secretly-taped footage showing sub-par farm conditions went public, and last year’s egg-related salmonella outbreaks. Also, now that individual states are passing differing hen welfare laws, it’s becoming more appealing to egg producers to have a single federal law to follow.
Note that this is just an agreement to work together to try to get a federal hen protection law created; and if the law is enacted, its timeline for full adoption is a whopping 18 years. There are still possible roadblocks: buy-in from UEP members is required; other livestock groups may fight the law to protect their own industries from regulation; and even if the law makes it to Congress, it may not pass. But the first step in changing a situation is awareness that the situation needs to change, and by partnering with HSUS, the UEP has admitted that it is aware that its chickens should be treated more humanely. And hopefully the commotion around this effort will increase consumer awareness of the plight of other factory farm animals, in addition to laying hens. Sure, they are baby steps, but at least they are steps forward!