When I was growing up, we had several comedy albums we listened to over and over. One of our favorites was the Bill Cosby album, To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With.
In several routines, Cosby mimics arguing with his brother while growing up, including one sketch where his brother accused him of eating all the Jell-O in the refrigerator. “Who made you the big Jell-O Sheriff of the house?” boomed Cosby.
For a long time, that phrase became my go-to line when someone got too bossy: Who died and made you Jell-O sheriff of the house? And that’s what I want to know about the Humane Society of the United States?
Who died and made them the farm animal care Jell-O sheriffs in the house? Who anointed them as the consumers’ spokesman? They don’t even eat meat.
Last summer, we reported the HSUS and the United Egg Producers had brokered an agreement that they hoped would become federal law dictating a national standard on cage sizes and “enriched housing” for egg-laying hens.
Well, they’ve found a legislator to introduce the agreement as legislation. A veterinarian, no less, albeit one that focused on dogs and cats in his practice.
The bill would require egg producers to ultimately double their hens’ housing space, replacing cages with “enriched colony housing systems.”
During a 15- to 18-year phase-in period, egg producers must also add perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas. The legislation includes carton labeling language, and addresses euthanasia standards, and ammonia levels in barns, among other specifics.
A news release issued by Schrader lists bill supporters that include the Ohio Egg Processors Association. If approved, the federal law would supersede standards set by Ohio’s new Livestock Care Standards Board, and other state laws (link opens .pdf of the board’s poultry standards).
It also would ban the transport and sale of eggs that don’t meet the requirements.
Since 1990, 25 HSUS-backed statewide ballot issues or referendums have been successful. Ohio’s ag community beat them to the punch to pass Issue 2 in 2009 to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
Now, HSUS — an organization that dedicated to “reducing, refining and replacing” meat, dairy and eggs from diets — is taking it to the Big Leagues, and trying to get animal production practices dictated by the federal government.
Last month, eight national farm groups — Egg Farmers of America, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Association, National Farmers Union, National Turkey Federation, and the National Milk Producers Federation — wrote to Congress to urge legislators to reject “unwarranted animal rights mandates.”
The letter to House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas and ranking member, Rep. Collin Peterson, blasted the HSUS/UEP-backed proposal, and claimed it would require replacement of 90 percent of the egg housing currently used. Of greater concern, however, is the creation of specific standards that can’t be adapted for different farming options — and the slippery slope of federal legislation that may seem well-intentioned, but could drive animal agriculture out of the United States.
But I guess that’s the HSUS’ goal, after all, isn’t it.
By Susan Crowell