I wasn’t at the press conference in Washington, D.C., where the agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers to move layers out of traditional cages and into enriched colony cages was announced. But, I was listening to Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO, HSUS, Bob Krouse, chairman of UEP, and Gene Gregory, president and CEO, UEP, over the telephone, and they all seemed to be singing from the same hymnal. Both sides sounded so positive about the agreement, it made me wonder, could this really be a win-win deal for animal welfare activists and the egg industry?
Finding common ground
In a statement released after the press conference, the air of cooperation was reinforced by statements from both sides. Pacelle said, “It is always our greatest hope to find common ground and to forge solutions, even with traditional adversaries. We are excited about a new and better pathway forward, and hope the Congress seizes the opportunity to embrace this sort of collaboration and mutual understanding. We extend our thanks to the producers within the industry for agreeing to make the needed investments to upgrade their housing and to improve animal welfare in a meaningful way.”
“America’s egg producers have continually worked to improve animal welfare, and we strongly believe our commitment to a national standard for hen welfare is in the best interest of our animals, customers and consumers,” said Krouse.
Passing on the cost
National legislation that would gradually transition the layer industry out of traditional cages and also slowly reduce cage density should provide a mechanism for passing on the increased housing costs to consumers without a major disruption in supply of eggs. It will be interesting to see if major purchasers of eggs see it this way or if they will fight this legislation.
If one accepts that argument, that traditional cage housing is on the way out, no matter what, and that enriched colonies offer a viable alternative for the industry and floor pens or free range do not, then it can be argued that this agreement is a “win” for consumers. Call me a skeptic, but I think the only time everyone is a “winner” is in T-Ball when they don’t keep score.