Ban battery cages for chickens

May 3, 2011

Dear Washington Farmer,

As farmers who have been farming in Washington for years, many of you know that the methods used to raise most farm animals have changed a great deal – in some ways for the better, and in many ways for the worse. Today, we’re writing to you on behalf of Washingtonians for Humane Farms, a diverse coalition of Washington citizens, about an important initiative that we expect will appear on the state ballot this fall. It’s the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, and we’re asking that you join us in endorsing the “Yes” vote on this initiative, which we consider a necessary and modest measure for reform.

The measure would phase out one of the worst practices of industrial animal production — the intensive confinement of egg-laying hens in cages so restrictive that the animals can barely move.

We encourage you to read for yourself the language of the initiative, which you can find at You’ll see that it merely requires that laying hens be kept in conditions that allow them to stand up, lie down, turn around, and fully extend their limbs. It really is that basic. It’s also important to note that the act makes a number of practical exemptions, such as for veterinary care, and more.

The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act has already garnered many notable endorsements. For example, the measure is endorsed by Tilth Producers of Washington, Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network, Farm Forward, the Organic Consumers Association, The Center for Food Safety and the National Black Farmers Association.

Here are a few specific reasons we support this measure:

  • The overcrowding of hens in cages is inhumane. This practice is among the cruelest techniques used on industrial factory farms, both in terms of the type and duration of confinement. Egg-laying hens are kept in cages that give each bird less space than a sheet of paper, which is not even enough to stretch their wings. Keeping animals so restrictively caged that they can barely move for months on end is cruel and inhumane. We believe that it’s especially important for farmers to speak out against such practices. Animals raised for food deserve to be treated as more than inanimate objects. We owe them at least some basic freedom of movement.
  • Such extreme confinement is unnecessary. Already, states like California and Michigan have legislated against this inhumane practice and are phasing it out. Washington can do better.
  • The initiative will help family farmers. This measure targets industrial operations that have been displacing smaller scale, traditional family farms. It is a step toward leveling the playing field for traditional farmers, who have been disadvantaged by the many forms of public subsidies provided to industrial farming operations. Farmers who raise animals meeting organic or other high welfare standards already exceed the modest requirements of this initiative.
  • There’s ample sound scientific evidence to support these common sense reforms. As just one example, the prestigious Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a panel of experts including former Dean of the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Michael Blackwell, concluded that the most intensive confinement systems used in animal agribusiness constitute “inhumane treatment.” Among the final recommendations unanimously put forth by the 15 Commissioners — who also included a former US Secretary of Agriculture and a veterinary ethics professor — was a complete phase out of battery cages for laying hens.
  • Factory farms that cram egg-laying hens into cages threaten food safety. All fifteen scientific studies published in the last five years comparing Salmonella contamination between caged and cage-free operations found that those confining hens in cages had higher rates of Salmonella. Science even shows that simply by switching to cage-free housing systems, the egg industry may be able to halve the risk of Salmonella for the American public. I-1130 is better for animals — and better for us.

We appreciate your consideration. We’re enclosing an endorsement form which we hope you’ll complete and either fax, mail, or scan/email to Yes on 1130. The contact information is on the form.


PCC Natural Markets
The Humane Society

P.S. If you have any questions about the initiative, please do not hesitate to call the campaign office at 206-547-1535.

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