Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Exotic Animals Are Not For Our Entertainment

When I was around five or six years old, my mother and my grandma took me to the Ringling Bros. circus. My grandmother, who was in a wheelchair, had to take a separate entrance to the arena in order for us to get to our seats. We got to go behind where the backstage of the circus was set up, but there wasn’t much to see. Everything was blocked off with curtains. It hadn’t occurred to me to wonder what was behind those curtains, but looking back, I know why the circus had them there.

We are taught from a young age that the circus is fun. There are so many children’s books about spending a day at the circus and how fantastic it is. However, the circus is not what it is perceived to be. It is time that we stop glorifying circuses such as that of the Ringling Bros. and start spreading the word about what really goes on.

Many traveling circuses have exotic animals such as elephants, lions, and tigers as parts of their acts. These animals are taught tricks and to do other things that they obviously do not naturally do. Violent methods are used to train these exotic animals and there have been many investigations of traveling circuses that have trainers who yell at or beat the animals they are training. Elephants are struck with painful elephant hooks, and some are even shocked. In order to train elephants to do tricks such as sitting on stools or standing on their heads, they are physically tied up and pulled into those positions. If they do not cooperate, they are struck painfully with elephant hooks. Without the use of pain and intimidation, these animals would not perform tricks.

In a video, Tim Frisco, an elephant trainer for the Carson and Barnes circus can be heard saying “hurt ‘em, make ‘em scream” in order to get them to carry out their commands.

Wild elephants are among the most beautiful animals to witness. They are graceful, strong, and have a very unique relationship with their family members. From my own experience in the Tanzanian savannah, I can say with confidence that the family structure among elephants is very clear. Of all the young elephants I had seen, not a single one was far away from its mother.  In the wild baby elephants are very close to their mothers and aunties for the first decade of their lives rarely being out of reach of physical touch with their mothers or another relative. Even as adolescents and adults they remain in close family groups.

In the circus, this important social structure among elephants is ignored. Baby elephants that are born into captivity are taken from their mothers almost immediately. On the second day of their life, they are taught to get used to having humans around. In the wild, baby elephants stay by their mothers and can still be nursed up to an age of four years.  However, in confinement, baby elephants are physically separated from their mothers with ropes, where people literally pull the babies away. This method is so violent that in a Ringling Bros. elephant training facility, two baby elephants less than two years of age had large visible legions on their legs. These elephants experience much trauma due to the separation from their mothers, and brutal training methods do not help. For elephants, the psychological attachment to their families is similar to humans and the psychological as well as physical suffering for them in circus training, starting at a young age, is profound. 

Elephants, however, are not the only ones who suffer greatly in circuses and are forced to act against their natural instincts. Big cats, too, are forced into situations that seem foreign to them. Tigers, which usually stay with their mothers until around two years of age, are forced to begin training in the circus away from their mothers at around eight months old. In the wild, lions spend most of their days sleeping and lounging in the shade to ensure that they do not overheat, and hunt at night when it is cooler in the savannah. In yet another Ringling Brothers incident, a two year old lion named Clyde died of extreme dehydration. Clyde was in a circus train boxcar crossing the Mojave Desert and circus officials did not want to stop to cool Clyde and the other animals off by hosing them down. Unfortunately, Clyde’s case is not uncommon. According to a report for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, PETA claimed that situations such as Clyde’s happen frequently, the public just does not find out.

One of the biggest issues with traveling circuses is the severe confinement that animals face. In an Animal Defenders International investigation, it was found that horses and ponies spend roughly 96% of their time tied in stalls or tethered to trailers. The other 4% is their “exercise”, or actual performance in the circus. In addition, tigers and lions spend 75-99% of their time in small, cramped cages. It is no surprise that this is unnatural for them, especially tigers, who are naturally solitary.

It is evident through their behavior alone that traveling circus animals are experiencing stress. Elephants, for example, are often found swaying back and forth in their confinements, a known reaction to stress. Tigers pace in their cages. But, because of the constant traveling that these circuses do, permanent, spacious and healthy confinements for the exotic animals would be inefficient and difficult to manage.

The glorification of circuses will never be justified as long as these practices are allowed. Thankfully, our country will hopefully move in the right direction with the passing of H.R. 3359, also known as the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act. Introduced on November 3rd of 2011, H.R. 3359 is an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act. The amendment says it will “restrict the use of exotic and non-domesticated animals in traveling circuses and exhibitions” if passed. The Animal Welfare Act does have some restrictions on exotic animals and circuses already, but due to the mobile nature of circuses, it is hard for law enforcement to monitor what truly goes on.  However, H.R. 3359 would allow exotic animals to be in permanent confinements for outreach, education, and non-mobile exhibitions in order to guarantee safe habitats for them.

Animal welfare includes the freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain and injury, freedom from fear and distress, and freedom for an animal to exercise their natural behaviors. In traveling circuses, the animals do not have most of these freedoms. It is now the time to put an end to the injustice these creatures face for people’s entertainment.

The first step we can take to eliminate these practices is to stop attending traveling circuses. As long as people are going, the circus will continue.

The second step we can take is to contact our representatives in congress and urge them to say YES on H.R. 3359. As of today, the amendment has only 29 cosponsors. By showing support for the act, hopefully it will be reintroduced to congress.

To send an automated email to your representative, you can go here.

To write your own letter to your representative, see some helpful guidelines here.     

In addition, you can call the U.S. House of Representatives switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to connect with your congressperson. When calling, remember to mention that you are a constituent and that you support H.R. 3359, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act.

The travel of exotic animals is already banned in Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Czech Republic, Peru, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, and India. In the words of animal rights activist and TV show host Bob Barker, “animal acts in circuses are antiquated and belong in the past, in a time when humans were ignorant about the needs of the other species who share our planet”. It is now time for these acts to be banned in the United States.

Monday, June 4, 2012

speak out/ black out

There are a lot of changes being proposed in legislation in Ottawa right now that could put nature "at a serious risk". To learn more, and to act upon it, visit here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let the Dairy Cows Out to Pasture

We have just put the cows out on pasture. It's the beginning of May here in Vermont, the beginning of many beautiful months where the cows try to keep up with the grasses. And, though it is only May, my mind has already turned to the coming winter. We have a barn to fix up, and hay to make and put away and two cows to breed. This will all happen over the next 5 or 6 months and by October we can expect our first snow fall.

The pigs will be fine come snow, they will stay in their hut and root around a nice big circle around it, keeping it free of much snow. They are hardy animals and grow a nice winter coat. Pigs are fastidious creatures and always delegate a spot in their pen to poop. For whatever reason they got the reputation of being slobs, but in the barnyard kingdom they get top marks for cleanliness. So long as we keep them fed and their hut bedded down with fresh hay they will need little more attention than that.

Likewise, the chickens won't require much more upkeep. Their nighttime house has more space than 30 chickens require. We will insulate it and have to feed them more than in the warmer months. They will venture into the areas that the pigs have cleared of snow. Though, they won’t go much further. Like most farm animals they go into a quasi-hibernation in the winter. They'll lay less. They'll eat more. They'll be generally less active.

The biggest creature in our barnyard is the cow. She is the biggest and creates the most work for the farmer in the winter. A cow poops a lot. She can produce upwards of 100 pounds of manure a day.  This varies according to breed, size, and diet of course. We have a rather small, Jersey cow, and she will produce somewhere around 80 pounds of manure a day.

Winnie and Bella love being out on pasture. They only walk themselves in when it is very stormy or cold.
When the cows are on pasture this manure is a wonderful thing. You keep the cows moving through the fields as they eat down the grass and their manure is left in the fields, which gives more fertility to the grass they eat. But in the winter the cows are more stationary. If you have some sort of loafing area with shelter where the cows can move about on, say 1/4 of an acre, then the manure builds up quickly, and the farmer needs to keep on top of this. The more cows he has, the more poop accumulates. If he doesn't muck his cows will literally be standing in their own poop. This is of course both gross and unpleasant for the cow and could eventually cause problems with her hooves.  The farmer needs to thus muck out the loafing area regularly and store that manure in one place so that he can then spread it on his fields come spring.  There is also the danger of ice in the winter. So, wherever, the cows are standing outside, must be kept free of ice at all times. If a cow slips on the ice it could be lethal.

Many dairy farmers obviate the need for mucking and de-icing by keeping their cows tied to stanchions in a big barn throughout the whole winter. Organic dairy farmers, conventional dairy farmers, even smaller-scale raw milk creameries do this. It is, by far, the easiest way to keep your cows through the winter. Farmers have been doing this for years. Thus, both new and old dairy barns have a manure shoot that goes all around the barn. It is set up so that the cow poops into the shoot, and then it can be turned on to shuffle all of the manure out of the barn and into a designated pile. This does away with mucking and keeps the barn smelling ok but it also keeps the cows locked into place, for the whole winter. Winters up in places like Vermont can run the better part of 6 months.

Could you imagine keeping anything tethered in one spot for a whole year? These are living, sentient, beings. They experience hunger, discomfort, pain, exhaustion just like we do. They become uncomfortable or bored or lonely or scared just like we do. To keep anything tied in one space for its entire life is simply cruel. While I understand the desire to keep the cows safe and dry and to lessen the repetitive work for the farmer, I strongly disagree with long-term stanchion-ing. The Humane Society put out a report that concludes keeping cows stationary can negatively impact their body condition and their natural social behavior. It can cause lameness. They are unable to clean themselves properly. They are bored. They are unable to physically interact with their peers. I cannot imagine keeping cows like this. And yet, I am not sure what the best solution is. This is a problem unique to places with winters like Vermont.

There are dairies (conventional and even organic) that keep their cows like this year round. Without the excuse of winter.   A 2007 report from the US Department of Ag found that only 9.9 % of the countries lactating cows are primarily housed on pasture. Likewise, it found that 49.2% of the lactating cows are primarily tied to a stanchion. It also found that only half  (49.4%) of the countries cows are ever let out on pasture, for any amount of time. This is confinement farming. It may not be chickens living in a sheet-of-paper sized cage, or sows in gestational crates. Cows are too big for crates and cages, but this is confinement farming, and the cows deserve to be let free to pasture. It would be better for their health, better for their happiness, and would produce more delicious milk. To help ensure you are not supporting cruelty to dairy cows you must be aware of where your milk comes from. If you buy organic milk from a big co-op like Horizon or Stonyfield or Organic Valley, it will usually say, on the carton, what farm that milk has come from. Look up the farm. Ask to visit it, if nearby, or even call up the farm and talk to one of the farmers. Ask how often their cows are on pasture. Make sure you know where your milk is coming from and that the cows are able to roam free.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Morning on the Farm

The first thing I see when I wake up, every morning, is my dog Rudy’s long red nose. He’s mostly pit-bull, and the red nose is what scares most people off when they first meet. However, he is 11, and though a bit neurotic, he is all love. He wants to jump up into bed to savor the last moments of sleep lying between us. I oblige, because, well he is 11, and it is all about the simplest pleasures for a dog of his age.

After pulling myself away from my still sleeping dog and boyfriend I sit, blinking, on the edge of the bed looking out to the paddock directly below. This is the winter paddock for a handful of the animals on our farm and, nearly every morning the 35 year old buckskin, Sabia, is standing on 3 legs below my window, allowing the fourth lame leg to rest. Sabia lets out these subtle snorts, his tail swishing back and forth as he patiently waits for my arrival.

After a quick breakfast of yogurt and muesli I layer old farm clothes on and Nick’s boots and scurry down to Sabia’s paddock. He shares this paddock with two aging Scottish Highlander cows, Leche and Canela (Milk and Cinnamon, in Spanish). There also lives here two donkeys, Bella and Cholula, and one young bull-calf named Ted. Sabia gets breakfast first as, even with animals you must respect seniority.  He neighs with what I can only imagine is excitement as I pour a scoop of molasses encrusted grain into his bowl. Ted gets a bottle of warm milk that I have fetched from his mother Winnie. Then finally, I bring a bale of hay out to the cows and donkeys. Everyone is thrilled. It is as though they have never had such a breakfast. Now, they can start their day.

I move on down the long, steep, driveway, to the milking barn where the rest of the animals live. It’s nearly 7:30am which is known as milking time here. Winnie is our one milk cow and she is standing at the barn doors, waiting to come in. She is backlit as the sun comes over the hills behind her but I can still see, to my dismay, too many bony ribs on her slight frame. She has been eating furiously since we purchased her from a farm in the western part of the state where they fed her little and gave her no winter shelter. Though skinny she is the sweetest cow and she gives us nearly 3 gallons of milk every day. So here she is waiting, methodically chewing her cud, at the barn doors.

I let Winnie in and set her up in the stanchion so she can begin eating the grain we give her to put extra weight on. While she eats I scurry around to the chickens as they have been up since sunrise and wish to be let out. They cluck and half fly past me and out the door. Their duck-friend, Pascale waddles after them. Pascale has been raised with the chickens as her mother abandoned her.

I toss the pigs, Rose and Van Gogh, their slop of barley soaked in whey.  They love it. As most of us on the farm love anything from Winnie. Finally I swing by Bella-cow (we have, inexplicably, 2 Bellas on the property). We have raised her since she was 2 months old and she is the only being on this farm that isn’t concerned with food so early in the morning. She wants love. Ever since Winnie’s arrival, Bella has seemed to sulk with the shift of attention. So, I try to show her how much I still love her by scratching her chin and neck and placing kisses on her. It seems to briefly placate her but she wants to come in, with Winnie. She wants the royal treatment of the dairy cow but she is still too young.

Finally, after everyone has been fed and my hands washed I sit down to my favorite farm chore; milking. Milking one cow is not the same as milking an entire herd. It is a much more intimate chore. I have no machine, just my hands and a clean bucket. My hands have become unrecognizable to me as I continue to milk Winnie day after day. They are rough and larger and more muscular, and this is good because they help me better to get the milk from her full udder.

As I milk I rest my forehead on her great belly. At times she is impatient, but most often she is gentle and giving. She wants this milk out of swollen udder, just as much as we want it for our breakfast table.

When I have the last of her milk I let her out of her stanchion and she slowly backs out knowing, without collar or lead where to next. With Winnie and Bella back together I throw them down a new bale of hay from the loft.

I walk over to the pigs, who are now finished eating and are calm. I scratch Van Gogh on the scar that was once his ear. He lost the ear in a vulture attack as a newborn piglet. It has healed but he loves to have it scratched. He lies down to fully enjoy the attention and presents his belly for a rub. Rose, his little sister, never allows Van Gogh to have all of my attention and comes right over to lay next to me. She too likes a good belly rub and, before I know it I have a pig on either side as I sit in their pen, and scratch their bellies.

A couple of the chickens that I know better than others come over to check out the downed pigs. They use the opportunity to clean out the pigs’ bowls. Soon, all the chickens are around us, including Pascale the duck. They seem to like the human sitting in the pig-pen. It signifies safety to them. No hawks will swoop with me in the field.

Before I leave to go back up to the house and greet the rest of the day I go to Bella’s pen and sit before her. She looks at me warily. Two months earlier, before Winnie, she would come right to me. Now something has changed. She’s not so sure of her place or mine in this ragtag barnyard. I wait, coo-ing to her, Come here Bella Belle. Come on.  After what seems like much deliberation she turns her great weight slowly towards me and walks the few steps to my arms. There she lays her great head in my lap as I hold it to scratch and kiss.

My mornings and my evenings revolve almost exclusively around the animals I share this land with. First taking care of their most immediate needs of food, water, and clean, dry shelter. Then I give them love and they give it back to me. It would be simple for anyone to cast off the notes on my animals as projections. That I am projecting Bella’s hurt feelings, or Pascale’s chicken sense, or Sabia’s pride, or Ted’s need for a mama or Rudy’s love for me and Nick. Perhaps, I am projecting or misinterpreting their actions.  Perhaps Bella has lost her dominance in the herd. Maybe Pascale doesn’t particularly like chickens but has no choice as we have no other ducks. It could be that Sabia is just old and slow, not stoic or honorable. And, Ted might not need his mama, he may just be hungry. An Animal’s first and most primary concern in the morning is food, there is no doubt. But, it is the same for all beings, including us. I would argue that once these needs are met there is more to them than food, water, and shelter. They have and crave relationships with one another. They have emotions. They can feel pain.  They are extraordinary, sentient beings that I feel so fortunate to communicate with morning and night, every day of the year.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Old McDonald had a Sow

The McDonald’s Corporation said on Monday that it would begin working with its pork suppliers to phase out the use of so-called gestational crates, the tiny stalls in which sows are housed while pregnant. -nytimes 2/13/12

Bacon is an empirically delicious product.  I cannot argue with that here. As a former vegetarian and as a current conscientious omnivore I understand too well the base human instinct to pull in the direction of the smell of such salt. But as a current pig farmer I understand more acutely too the intelligence and emotional capacity of the pig. Which is why I, despite the mouthwatering aforementioned smell, have made a promise to myself and to the pigs I love to raise, to never eat confinement pork. Ever. And I hope to show you in future posts why you should never eat pork. At all.

Before I delve into the latest on McDonald's press release let me paint you a picture of a pasture-raised pork operation in this country as it is what I know best. On Cane Creek Farm in Snow Camp, North Carolina Elizabeth MacLean (my eldest cousin) raises pigs on what is known as a closed system pasture-based operation.  She has both sows and boars of a variety of heritage breeds. She rotates the lovebirds through a series of six pastures through-out the year. She keeps only sows and boars that get along, together, to minimize bullying. The sows farrow (give birth) on pasture with the protection of English style huts. The piglets are then left to live with their mother and learn from her for the first 3-4 months of their life. Afterwards they are separated (to avoid any unwanted breeding of the little gilts) and brought to separate pastures where they live out the rest of their life on grass. When the pigs reach a healthy weight (around 6 months of age) they are brought to a slaughter house just 30 minutes away. Elizabeth stays with the pigs until they are killed, which is soon after they arrive, minimizing the stress to the pig.

It is a good life for a pig, if a pig must be eaten. In this system they are raised by their parents. They are given fresh forage on grass in fields that are spacious and permit them to run and run around. They are treated and handled with respect from farmers who truly love pigs.   
A model of a sow and boar (center) raising their piglets in harmony, outside, on pasture in NC. Credit: Nick Zigelbaum
This system requires more land. It requires more months for a piglet to 'reach weight'. The system also begets a higher price for the pork. The higher price is the price to pay for an animal that was raised with dignity.

Having now raised pigs for a couple of years I can tell you with absolute certainty that we shouldn't even be eating these animals. Pigs are the most intelligent animal in the barn yard. They form bonds with each other.  They form bonds with other species. They form bonds with their farmers. They are gentle, if raised well. They are meticulous creatures, as the only farm animal that doesn't defecate where they sleep or eat.  They like to be scratched behind the ears and will often roll on their sides for you to scratch their bellies. As inventors of the pig pile they love to cuddle. They have incredible memories and sense of direction and will learn their own way around a farm if given the opportunity to be completely free.
A sow, having just farrowed, outside. We hung a tarp up above her to keep the hot Carolina sun from dehydrating her. You can see on the far right a piglet just literally born seconds before this photo was taken. Credit: Nick Zigelbaum

But pigs are big. They are huge, stubborn creatures that will certainly go their own way if farmer and beast are not on the same page. They have jaws that have the dexterity and power to eat acorns and pit cherries and crush squash and watermelon with single bites. They have tusks that could easily take out a leg or arm.  The sows get to be over 600 pounds.  The boars can top out at closer to 1000 pounds. If you treat this animal with love and respect, it will repay you in kind. If you do not you will have a world of trouble on your hands. Which brings us to confinement pork operations.

Essentially everything I just told you about pastured pork has its evil opposite in confinement operations.  They replace grass pastures with concrete slabs. Some of the breeders never see day light and piglets are only offered access to their mother through the bars of a gestational crate. These are the crates mentioned in the article I have referenced above. The very crates that McDonald’s is doing away with from their pork producers.  They are sized to be nearly the exact same size as the sow’s body. This gives her virtually no room and has her immobilized there, in her crate, for eternity.

This is where a sow will spend virtually her entire life. This is the extent of the piglet/mother bonding that can occur; nursing through the bars of her prison. (Photo source:wikipedia)

To get a full view of how a sow is treated in a confinement farm operation please view the Humane Society’s video here. It contains disturbing footage of a hog farm owned by Smithfield. Yes, that Smithfield that makes the sausages you see in every grocery’s freezer. If you watch the video, you’ll stop eating their pork. How could you do anything otherwise? If you know you can’t watch the video because you know you hate to see violence against innocent animals, how can you continue to eat Smithfield (or any large pork producer’s) pork?

The Humane Society filmed this in 2010. But, it wasn’t until the popular Chipolte commercial aired during the Grammy’s this past February that McDonald’s relented to popular pressure and announced they were phasing out the crates.  They have yet to give a time-line but because of the public announcement, many are optimistic this will happen. I am thrilled beyond belief to know that those farming for McDonald’s will  soon no longer be permitted to use these crates. That is an extraordinary part of the market. And, so argues Mark Bittman;  “McDonald’s is among the most important food companies in the world, and one could argue that it and Walmart are the true pace-setters: what they do, others will do. When McDonald’s bans gestation crates, gestation crates will go bye-bye.”  But I beg of you all to think twice about supporting any farm that is only now phasing out such a horrific practice. If this is how they treat the mothers of the animals they raise, you could only imagine how they treat the other animals on the farm.

Pigs are intelligent, incredible, creatures. Phasing out gestational crates is a good step in the direction of animal welfare in farming. But it is just that, a step. You can congratulate McDonald’s should you choose. But don’t celebrate their small “step” by continuing to buy their pork products. Show McDonald’s that they need to do more for animal welfare by patronizing your local farm store and buying only their pasture raised pork. Or, by not eating pork at all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A rotten egg.

At first glance, the new bill HR 3798 that will be brought in front of Congress this year, is a victory for animal rights advocates and their feathery friends. The bill, known as the Egg Products Inspection Act of 2012, is the result of an unprecedented compromise between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP).  The bill lists a set of improved living standards for laying hens in battery houses. It makes deplorable living conditions for the birds a bit better. It also sets in legislative stone the conditions the birds must live in for the duration of their lives. In other words, the passage of this bill, while seemingly progressive, allows the UEP to get away with minimal changes to their operation while broadcasting the support of the HSUS.

In order to understand the consequence of the bill let us first look at the lives of birds currently in confinement housing across the country. Over 250 million laying hens live in what are known as ‘battery’ houses in the United States. The houses are long, windowless, warehouses outfitted for confinement egg production. Most of these hens (such exact numbers are extraordinarily difficult to come by) live in cages that are hardly bigger than the hen’s body. She drinks, eats, sleeps and lays her egg in the same spot. She does this inside. Without seeing the light of day, or spreading her wings, or taking a dust bath. She doesn’t get to do much at all but live and work, briefly, for the pathetic state of our current food system. For, as confinement farming goes in this country she is a cog in its proverbial machine.  

Understandably, with conditions as inhumane as these organizations like the HSUS have fought vigorously against the UEP for years. The HSUS has supported undercover investigative reports in battery houses. They have stood behind legislative attempts in many states (most recently in California) to try to make the UEP treat their hens more humanely through legal channels.

The HSUS and the UEP have for all intents and purposes been each other’s classic nemesis.  But, recently, the UEP came to the HSUS with a proposed collaboration; they would make some concessions about the hen’s welfare in exchange for the HSUS backing off their attack on the egg industry. The UEP was reportedly concerned about the money and time they would waste fighting the HSUS state by state over the treatment of their hens. They decided that it would be in their interest to compromise with the HSUS on one national legislative change instead. When the UEP came to them with this proposed deal the HSUS saw this as perhaps one of their only realistic opportunities to better the lives of factory laying hens and thus was born HR 3798.

The problem is that the UEP gets away with legislative murder with this bill and the HSUS is humiliated with their concessions and with a partnership that is very clearly one sided.

Currently, factory laying hens, are allotted about 67 square inches of space. That is smaller than a sheet of paper.  A sheet of paper is typically 8.5” x 11”. That is 93.5 square inches. I encourage you to stop reading and study a piece of similarly sized paper. Could you imagine any creature living in that space for their entire life? HR 3798 is going to, 15 years after it’s enactment, require that laying hens have somewhere between 124 -144 square inches of floor space (depending on the breed of the hen). Taking the larger number, 144 square inches is one square foot. Not even the size of 2 sheets of paper. 
One of my juvenile chickens (not yet, full grown) trying patiently to stand on 2 sheets of paper for 30 seconds. 144 square inches is NOT a lot of room.

There are other improvements they have put forth in this bill.  The bill will, if passed, require by law, that egg producers humanely euthanize their chickens when necessary. Another such improvement is the allotment of nesting boxes. This is important as hens prefer to nest in a small dark private place as opposed to the exposed and bright cage they currently lay in. They have also called for a sandbox of sorts in which the hen can dust bathe. With these additions their cages will be renamed “enriched” cages, and their cartons will be labeled as such.

Labeling is one of the final proposals in HR 3798. The proposed law would require egg manufactures to put on each carton how their chickens are raised. The labels would use a concise description such as eggs from cage free hens or eggs from free range hens or eggs from enriched cages. This is an important step to educating the consumer on how their food was raised. Sadly, a definition of each label is not included on the carton. Should a consumer read eggs from free range hens they may wrongly assume the hens live outdoors. They only have “access” to the outside, with typically, one door open at the end of a large warehouse. It is doubtful that many of those hens ever go outside.

It pains me to speak out against the HSUS. The organization has done such good for so many animals all around this country. I don’t believe their intentions to be malicious with their compromise to the UEP. I believe they must be exhausted from a never ending fight with the egg industry and with every factory farming industry. But, this doesn’t mean we should praise them for any form of victory here. Nor, should we praise the UEP for reaching a ‘compromise’. We certainly shouldn’t praise this bill as a “good egg” like the LA Times did last month. This bill will do too little to change the lives of the hens.

If you’d like to speak out against the Egg Bill you can do so here. AND I hope you, and I, and every egg-consumer in America will vote also with the dollars in our pockets.

Don't stand for enriched-caged eggs or cage-free eggs or even free-range eggs. They're all bullshit. When you boil it all right down to it chickens are sentient animals. They deserve living conditions that no legislative measure will ever grant them the right to. They deserve fence-less green pasture. They deserve a warm and safe place to roost at night. They deserve clean water and simple, healthy grains. They deserve to flap their wings in an open space. To dust bathe in the dirt. To feel the restorative power of the sun on their combs and waddles. No large scale egg operation will ever give chickens what they need and deserve. Only you and your neighbors and your local small farms can give them what they need.

So, don’t buy eggs from the grocery store. Buy eggs from farmer’s markets. Buy eggs from your neighbor. Get a couple of chickens and put them in your back yard and never buy eggs again. Ask around, you’ll be surprised at how many people you know have chickens or know somebody who has chickens and would be willing to sell you a dozen here and there. You don’t have to buy eggs from producers whose hen’s live in a 2-sheets-of-paper world.

The only way we can help these hens, and future hens, is to stop giving our grocery dollars to the big producers. Buy local. Love the chickens. Eat delicious eggs.