The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other animal welfare groups, along with a coalition of other concerned organizations, have joined together as Washingtonians for Humane Farms, and have drawn up a ballot initiative proposal for the November 2011 vote. It is called the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, the purpose of which is to ban the use of so-called “battery cages,” and other measures which confine egg-laying hens in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, or fully extend their wings. There are over six million egg-laying hens within Washington State that are confined in battery cages, each one having less space than a single sheet of paper upon which to spend more than a year before being slaughtered.
We as NARN support this measure as a step in the goal of ending the abuse and exploitation of all animals. In NARN’s view, this bill is not merely an end unto itself, but a pragmatic step to lessen the suffering of animals right now as we work towards a truly humane, compassionate and respectful future where animals are no longer seen as mere commodities. Animals have inherent rights to live a full natural life not confined, used or killed by humans, but until such measures are in place ensuring the freedom of animals, we all have an obligation to help the animals that are suffering now. Until the majority of people believe that animals shouldn’t be raised for food, proposed laws like this are necessary to protect them from the worst abuses. So while we continue to advocate that veganism is the best and most consistent way for people to respect the lives of animals, we also encourage support for the effort to get this measure on the November 2011 ballot.
While we support this measure, we want to make sure the public knows and understands what this initiative will and will not do if it passes.
What it will do:
- Assuming it doesn’t get repealed or altered in the next seven years, the use of battery cages will be banned in Washington State starting in 2018, along with other confinement methods which prevents hens from turning around freely, fully extending their wings, standing up or laying down.
What it will not do:
- It will not necessarily ensure a clean pleasant environment for hens; it does not stop the practice of housing multitudes hens in manure-filled sheds where they have no access to outside fresh air, sun or pasture.
- It will not stop the standard agricultural practice of “de-beaking,” the use of a hot guillotine to remove the points off of hen’s sensitive beaks to ensure they don’t peck each other while living in crowded conditions.
- It will not ensure the full natural lifespan of hens raised for egg-production; even though hens can live up to ten years, they are shipped off to slaughter after a year or so when their egg production drops and replaced with younger, fresher hens.
- It will not stop the standard agricultural practice of hatcheries that provide replacement hens from killing all male chicks that are hatched by grinding them up alive or suffocating them in trash bags as they provide no economic value.
While this initiative will take a step towards alleviating some of the suffering, it does not ensure that the hens will be treated humanely. But since there are precious few laws that address animal cruelty, which usually provide protections only to certain animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, and the like, and almost no laws in place that address the treatment of animals raised for food production, this initiative takes an important first step of providing a legislative precedent. Signatures are needed to get it on the ballot, so please spread the word, sign the petition when you see it offered, and volunteer to be a signature-gatherer.