We have just secured another monumental win for hens confined in tiny cages in the egg industry. Moments ago, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed legislation championed by the HSUS to require all eggs produced or sold in her state to come from cage-free facilities.
With Oregon’s new law, the entire West Coast region of the United States now has the strongest laws in the world for egg-laying hens. The Oregon measure will go into effect at the end of 2023, and it is nearly identical to our victory in Washington state, which I told you about in May.
Last year, of course, Californians voted overwhelmingly for Proposition 12, which passed on Election Day and also mandated an elimination of cages.
There are 20 million birds raised within these three states, including four million in Oregon. And because these laws cover all eggs sold within the states and there are about 50 million people who live within them, we estimate that the laws will help an additional tens of millions more hens every year (per capita egg consumption equates to roughly one hen for every consumer). Very few efforts in the long history of the animal protection movement have benefited so many animals.
Most hens used in egg production are confined in barren wire cages and each bird has less space than a single sheet of paper, preventing her from even extending her wings. Chickens are inquisitive, active animals and life inside a cage is one of frustration and deprivation.
While cage-free doesn’t equate to “cruelty-free,” the laws in Oregon, Washington and California greatly improve conditions for egg laying hens by prohibiting cages, giving each bird more space and requiring enrichments that are key to their well-being, including perches, nests, as well as scratching and dust-bathing areas.
In addition to the West Coast victories, the HSUS has led successful legislative and ballot efforts to reduce the suffering of hens in the Midwest (Michigan, Ohio) and the Northeast (Massachusetts, Rhode Island).
These victories, and the work we have done with the world’s largest food corporations to get rid of cruel cages from their supply chains, indicate the emergence of a new normal in the egg industry. An increasing acceptance that the industry’s future no longer involves cages has taken hold.
As we did in Washington, the HSUS worked in Oregon with forward-thinking members of the agricultural community, other top animal protection groups (including the Oregon Humane Society), and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Special thanks are due to Senator Michael Demrow for his leadership, as well as to House champions like Representatives Courtney Neron and Dan Rayfield.
While we don’t shy away from a fight (as Prop 12’s historic campaign showed!), we’ve found that collaboration often results in the strongest, longest-lasting change for animals.
Congratulations to all my colleagues who campaigned for this law and all of those in the animal protection community who fought for years to secure the victories that led us to this momentous day. We look forward to continuing to charge ahead with you in our work to ban the cage confinement of farm animals across the United States and around the world.