The Humane Society of the United States has released some damning footage of egg farms, but farmers' organizations are firing back, claiming the group wants "to remove meat from our dinner tables [...] and eventually — pets from our families."
According to the video above (shot undercover at Iowa farms, and extremely difficult to watch), many chickens suffer gruesome injuries when being moved from cage to cage, or get stuck in the wires of large battery cages and are trampled to death. P.J. Huffstutter of the LA Times writes that in addition to releasing the footage, the Humane Society is reaching out to kids in 4-H to teach them humane farming practices. The group has also bought stock in food companies to influence them to make more animal-friendly decisions, convincing Wendy's, IHOP, and Wal-Mart to switch to cage-free eggs. But farmers aren't happy that the interference, and they accuse the Humane Society of far more nefarious goals. Kansas Farm Bureau President Steve Baccus writes, "HSUS seeks to remove meat from our dinner tables, leather goods from our closets, animals from zoos and circuses and eventually — pets from our families." He also says the group is "a powerful, well-funded activist organization pursuing what most reasonable observers would consider an extreme anti-animal agenda."
But Baccus's words seem alarmist, given that the Humane Society's position is basically pretty moderate. The organization's president Wayne Pacelle said Wednesday, "We're not asking for an end to the confinements of animals in buildings. We're asking they not be crammed into cages and crates barely larger than their bodies." The Humane Society isn't PETA — they don't run billboards of naked women, or ask that we all go vegan. And, perhaps as a result of their more modest approach, they've had major successes — Huffstutter mentions California's Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (Prop. 2), which will ban restrictive cages for calves, hens, and sows. So farmers may be right to fear the Humane Society, insofar as changing their practices might make things difficult for them for a while. But far from being "anti-animal," these changes will be good for livestock, and for humans who care about treating them well.