Animal rights advocates filed a citizen initiative today to require more room for egg-laying hens that many industry farms keep in close-fitting cages.
The Humane Society and Farm Sanctuary are part of the coalition that formed to promote the proposal, which is intended to give the industry six years to comply in 2018. The coalition calls itself Washingtonians for Humane Farms and says 6 million Washington hens are kept in cages that lack room for the birds to spread wings or turn around.
Paul Shapiro, a spokesman for the Humane Society in Washington, D.C., said animal rights advocates have tried in recent years to promote cage-free legislation but could not get around industry opposition. And talks with the industry did not lead to agreements, so they are filing an initiative.
Shapiro said the concept – giving farm animals adequate room to turn around or spread wings in captivity – has passed by strong public votes in Florida, Arizona and California. Some of those other measures also dealt with pigs and calves, but Shapiro said Washington has relatively little pig or veal production so it is not included in the measure.
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The Humane Society was the major force behind Initiative 713, which voters approved in 2000 to outlaw body-gripping traps, including those used for moles. The group will provide financial help for this measure, although Shapiro said local advocates are expected to help, too.
The Office of the Secretary of State has received at least 15 proposed initiatives so far this year, five of them from professional initiative promoter Tim Eyman. Each proposal needs 241,153 valid voter signatures by July 8 to qualify for the November ballot.
No word yet from the egg industry, but Shapiro gave credit to Wilcox Farms in McKenna for making progress toward cage-free egg production.