Colorado has just banned cages for egg-laying chickens and will require that eggs produced and sold in the state be cage-free. The bill, which passed both chambers of the state legislature in June, was signed moments ago by Gov. Jared Polis. The new law will spare approximately six million chickens each year from being locked for most of their lives in tiny wire cages where they cannot even spread their wings.
This is yet another striking victory in our campaign to eradicate cruel cage confinement for farm animals. Colorado is the seventh state to pass a cage-free law in the past four years, building on previous successes we led in Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island.
In April, we told you about another huge milestone, when the egg industry nationwide became more than 26% cage-free. (It was around 5% cage-free just six years ago before we began our campaigns.)
A big reason for this change, in addition to our state legislative campaigns, has been our work with the nation’s—and the world’s—biggest food corporations committing to go cage-free. We are now pushing these U.S.-based companies to fulfill their commitments with our Food Industry Scorecard that measures the progress made by each of the companies toward their cage-free goal. Our affiliate, Humane Society International, will soon be releasing a similar tool for companies around the world.
We bring a strong sense of urgency to this work because caged egg-laying chickens are among the most abused animals on earth. The cages they are confined in are so small the birds can’t express their natural behavior, such as running, exploring or extending their wings. While there are additional issues in commercial egg production that cage-free conditions don’t necessarily address (such as beak trimming, force-molting and the killing of day-old male chicks), the freedom of movement and ability to express behavioral needs improves the hens’ quality of life significantly compared to being in cages.
The new law in Colorado requires cage-free conditions, more space per bird, and also mandates enrichments that are crucial to the hens’ psychological and physical well-being, including perches, nest boxes, scratching areas and dust-bathing areas.
We are grateful to those who worked with us to secure passage of this important law, including fellow animal advocates, concerned members of the agriculture community, bill sponsors Rep. Dylan Roberts and Sen. Kerry Donovan, legislators from both parties, and Gov. Polis. This victory, coming as it does at a time when state legislatures have been shut down for extended periods due to the coronavirus pandemic, is especially remarkable. We promise to keep up the momentum until no hen has to endure the misery of life in a cage anywhere in our country—or in the rest of the world.