In response to the letter "Bill helps animals, family farmers" (April 19): I am a member of one of those family poultry farmers, and we strongly object to this bill, which will come before voters in November. The writer assumes we are practicing animal cruelty in how we raise and manage our laying hens. Nothing is further from the truth! We are very concerned about the welfare of our birds and follow practices recommended by the United Egg Producers' independent scientific committee.
A laying hen is very adaptable to her environment. Properly managed cages provide her with a comfortable way of life, giving her a clean home, proper nutrition, sanitary fresh water, biosecurity and a stress-free existence. In return, she produces the maximum number of clean, fresh eggs.
The potential for health problems rises dramatically when hens spend their days walking in a "free-range" environment, laying a small percentage of their eggs on the ground in litter containing their own waste and which can harbor disease-producing organisms.
If this bill passes, it will have an enormous impact on poultry producers, forcing many out of business. More land will be needed, the investment on new and converted buildings will reach into the millions and the price of eggs will rise dramatically.
Voters should think carefully about this bill. It is not about "animal rights," it is an attempt to eliminate animal agriculture and force us to join the vegetarian way of life.
JAMES S. WEST