July 8, 2011 By Steve Kopperud
When I first got wind of the July 7 United Egg Producers (UEP)-Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) agreement on “enriched cages,” egg carton labeling, euthanasia, molting, ammonia levels and so on, I was surprised, but not completely. UEP has been fighting a long, expensive and sometimes (often?) lonely battle to stop HSUS state-by-state, and it was expecting to do battle again in 2012 in Oregon.
I understand the industry’s frustrated desire to end the seemingly unending attack on how it does business, the crazy quilt of state laws that have evolved over the last few years governing how it raises birds, and I know the retailer pressure UEP has been under as company by company – albeit only a few of the truly unenlightened within the retailer community — announce plans to “go cage-free” at some undefined time in the future, honestly believing they’re doing the consumer some kind of favor.
What truly struck me dumb – and this is not generally an easy thing to do – was that part of the announcement where UEP and HSUS announced they would jointly seek federal legislation to enshrine their agreement. At this point my only reaction was: UEP has gone a step too far.
There are currently no federal laws governing how a U.S. farmer husbands animals for food. There are unending laws and regulations on how to make feed, how to practice animal health, how food safety is maintained, how animals are killed, but no federal regulation on husbandry practices per se. Why? Because there’s no reason to regulate how farmers farm or how ranchers ranch. There is no problem that must be solved by federal intervention. Animal ag has battled for 30 years to keep it this way. For 30 years, HSUS has tried to put Uncle Sam in the middle of every farm and ranch in America. For 30 years, Congress has sided with farmers and ranchers.
It’s clear had UEP been able to craft this “partnership” its way, it would have been an industry voluntary program of transition from conventional cages to enriched environment cages. But my guess is UEP couldn’t keep HSUS at the table if it only agreed to a voluntary transition. Full story