Earlier this week, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation improving the conditions for hens at egg-producing facilities by enacting sensible, science-based animal welfare reforms.
According to State Senator Mark Schoesler, who sponsored the bill:
“SB 5487 puts Washington ahead of other states with a reasonable approach that will help keep eggs at an affordable price and allow consumers to continue making their own choices, such as organic or free-range. We don’t need radical alternatives that would make eggs noticeably more expensive. That’s why my bill, which had strong bipartisan sponsorship, came out of our committee with a unanimous, bipartisan vote and passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and House of Representatives.”
“I’m confident the governor wouldn’t have signed the bill if she didn’t believe it addressed questions that have been raised outside the Legislature. This really should settle the matter.”
Settle the matter? Oh Mark. Mark, Mark, Mark. If only that were the case. No, this won't be settled when HSUS has salaries to pay -- and certainly not when there are still farmers left to attack!
And sure enough, before Gregoire's signature was even dry, HSUS's Paul Shapiro was stamping his feet, insisting that the issue is indeed far from settled:
But Paul Shapiro, senior director of Factory Farming Campaign for the Humane Society, said the bill does not satisfy groups' desires for cage-free systems for humane treatment of hens.
Ballot initiatives are now planned that would effectively outlaw caged housing for egg-laying hens* in Washington this year, and in Oregon in 2012.
One aspect of this push that brings a sense of déjà vu is the fact that despite their reputations, HSUS and Farm Sanctuary have somehow managed to secure the backing of a few small farms. Now, to be clear, these are farmers that won't be seriously affected by the initiative, farmers who most likely believe they'll be able to stave off future attacks from these groups by staying in their good graces (or, if we were more cynical, farmers who wouldn't mind seeing the ballot box cut their competition down to size), but they are farmers nonetheless:
More than 50 Washington farmers, many of them small operators, back the initiative, Shapiro said. They include egg, pork, beef and apple producers.
Given our past experience with the anti-dog owner and breeder legislation HSUS has pushed, it's a tactic we've grown accustomed to. "Oh nos!" says HSUS, "We're your friends. Really! You're ethical just like weee are, aren't you? Aren't you? Anybody who says anything bad about us only hateses us because we love the animals so much. They hate us for our freedoms! We only want to put a stop to those nasty, large-scale producers and their cruel practices. You're safe (for now), preciouss, we swearssss it... just don't read the bill, pleasssse"
HSUS may not offer much in the way of facts and science, but they've got manipulation down to an artform -- especially when it comes to courting ethical, well-meaning people who are perhaps a little too trusting of the organization's end goals. It's taken almost two full decades of outreach to get to a point where that insipid "Are you against HSUS or puppy mills?" false choice is rarely uttered by serious voices in the dog world. It takes time spent and lessons learned, and HSUS has only been going full-steam against animal agriculture for a few years. However, given the activists' zeal and the fact that agriculture isn't just a hobby but a career, I have a feeling these farmers are going to catch on a lot quicker than the dog people did.
* Yes, even the ones that have been signed into law, which will allow for the full extension of wings, private nesting areas, perching, and natural behaviors!