Which Came First, the Activists or the Egg?

With a name like the “Humane Society” of the United States (HSUS), most people immediately think of puppies and kittens – not eggs and chickens. However, judging by how much HSUS has patted itself on the back for its impending deal with United Egg Producers (UEP), you’d think the animal-rights group had scored a major mission-centric win over a formidable foe. Except for the fact that adopting roomier cages for egg-laying hens nationwide was the egg farmers’ idea in the first place.

As reported on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website, UEP members had already been discussing adopting the new cages well before HSUS came along to claim victory:

Prior to the negotiations between the HSUS and UEP, the UEP had been considering adding European-style enriched housing similar to that described in the deal with the HSUS as an approved option for the UEP Certified program. Gregory said the UEP contacted [HSUS CEO Wayne] Pacelle about the enriched housing option, and discussions began among teams from the organizations.

Within the UEP, the deal was arranged by its 34 board members, who were tasked with representing the interests of more than 200 member organizations, Gregory said.

More to the point, prior to the “truce,” HSUS was very reluctant to endorse enriched housing – despite the fact that many legitimate animal-welfare activists had embraced the new standards. The American Humane Association, AVMA, and renowned activist Temple Grandin have all supported the benefits of the new European-style furnished cage systems for more than a year now. It was only after UEP approached Wayne Pacelle with an offer of a collaborative effort that HSUS did an about-face on the issue.

Reviewing the evidence (and its stated purpose of abolishing American egg production), it’s easy to see HSUS is simply taking credit for a change egg farmers had been planning to implement all along. Is that really a victory worth clucking about?