Thanks to an outcry from concerned consumers, over 100 major grocery stores, including Costco, Target, and Walmart, have recently pledged to stop selling eggs from chickens kept in battery cages—a cruel yet common industry practice—over the next few years. These corporate commitments are the latest sign that the era of extreme animal confinement is coming to an end. Seven states have already outlawed or restricted the use of battery cages.
But under an outrageous new Iowa law, these corporate cage-free promises may have just become illegal. Today, Iowa governor Kim Reynolds signed HF 2408, an unprecedented measure that would actually force grocery stores to sell eggs from hens in battery cages. That’s right: This law would require private businesses to sell a product their customers no longer want. So much for a “free market.
Hens at battery facilities are crowded for nearly their entire lives in wire cages so small the birds can’t even spread their wings. Numerous MFA undercover investigations have revealed the ongoing torture that extreme confinement inflicts on these smart, sensitive creatures. Additionally, studies have shown that battery-cage eggs are far more likely to carry salmonella, a major food safety risk for consumers.
Why, then, are Iowa lawmakers bending over backwards to preserve this cruel, unsafe, and outdated industry? Maybe it has to do with the fact that Iowa is the nation’s biggest producer of factory-farmed eggs. Indeed, Iowa lawmakers appear to have been in the egg industry’s pocket for decades.
When Iowans became concerned about factory farm cruelty back in 1994, state lawmakers responded by amending Iowa’s animal cruelty law to exempt “customary animal husbandry practices—effectively making every factory farming practice legal just because it was common. When rural communities spoke out against the industry in 1995, Iowa lawmakers tied their hands by stripping local government of zoning authority over factory farms.
When California voters and lawmakers overwhelmingly approved laws phasing out battery-cage eggs in 2008 and 2009, Iowa’s then-governor butted in, unsuccessfully suing to overturn the law—and the state’s congressional representative is now trying to overturn it too.
And when a major Iowa battery-cage egg farm caused a salmonella outbreak in 2010 that sickened thousands nationwide, lawmakers noted that it had painted “a very disturbing picture of egg production in America. Yet instead of taking action to prevent these abuses, the Iowa legislature passed an “ag-gag law meant to keep them hidden from the public by silencing whistleblowers. (Fortunately, a federal judge sentenced the egg farmer to prison, and the ag-gag law may soon be found unconstitutional.)
With this latest law, the position of Iowa legislators is abundantly clear: They don’t want people to know about factory farming, they don’t want laws to improve it, and they certainly don’t want consumers to do anything about it.
Mercy For Animals condemns this outrageous assault on animals, consumers, and the free market in the strongest possible terms and will continue to call for food providers to set basic minimum standards that include removing battery cages from their supply chains.
Of course, the simplest and most effective thing each of us can do to prevent animal cruelty is simply to stop paying for it. Please visit TheGreenPlate.com to learn how you can move toward a compassionate plant-based diet.