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Cage layer systems under attack

Eggs are "the latest front in the humane food war," says a U.S. humane society activist

by Glenn Powell
Special to Ontario Farmer
October 31, 2006

Toronto – So-called “factory farming” in general was under the gun and cage layer systems in particular were the point of attack at a workshop last week sponsored by the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals (CCFA).

Established in 2002, the CCFA represents more than 20 organizations including humane societies and other animal welfare support groups across Canada.

The stated mission of CCFA, according to workshop materials, is “to help farm animals in Canada” through consumer education, offering consumer choice and legislation. The organization currently has three main objectives ­ to phase out the use of layer cages, phase out sow stalls and
tighten the regulations governing the humane transport of livestock and poultry.

The CCFA attacks the livestock and poultry industries for spending money on slick public relations programs to defend the status quo rather than putting their money towards developing acceptable humane production systems.

CCFA points out that recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Canadians do not support the use of cages for laying hens and do agree it is important that farm animals be treated humanely.

“Canadians care about farm animals,” the CCFA concludes and consumers should be told “what’s going on” at large-scale, commercial livestock and poultry farms.

Paul Shapiro, director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Factory Farming Campaign, told workshop attendees that the anti-caged hen movement in the U.S. is “like a tidal wave sweeping the industry.” Major fast food outlets, retail grocers, universities and national food manufacturers are now demanding cage-free eggs.

“Cramming hens into cages goes against common sense,” Shapiro said, adding that the trend will only accelerate as more consumers become aware of the animal welfare issue. “Eggs are the latest front in the humane food war,” Shapiro claimed.

Hens in cages, he said, do not have adequate exercise nor are they able to do normal things such as flapping their wings, dust bathing, perching or nesting.

The U.S. Humane Society executive predicted that layer cages (and sow crates) will be banned. “It’s only a matter of time,” he said.

Shapiro said he hoped egg producers would take responsible action and phase out the use of cages before they are forced to by legislation.