Great news to end the week, Juicers! In his excellent book The Better Angels of Our Nature—which makes good summer reading or listening, btw—Steven Pinker writes about Europe’s 18th and 19th century “humanitarian revolution,” the period of moral evolution during which people stopped indulging in such cruel medieval pastimes as recreational torture, dueling, cat-burning, and (for realz) cutting noses off.
It’s hard to deny that we’re going through a new revolution, this time focused on the animals. (Nick Kristof recently called it The Humane Revolution.) Every day it seems like there’s another piece of good news—and this week, two huge, wonderful stories broke:
1) Wednesday’s Washington Post reported that the Senate approved an update to the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act that included provisions to reduce the number of animals used in tests of toxic chemicals:
The EPA should use non-animal alternatives where possible, the legislation says, and must come up with a plan to develop and adopt more non-animal methods, such as computer modeling or cell-based tests.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an advocacy group which seeks to to reduce animal testing, predicts the bill will save hundreds of thousands of animals from being used in painful and often pointless experiments (such as the infamous Draize test). And it sets a great precedent:
Millions of animals are killed in U.S. lab tests and experiments each year, the vast majority of them mice, rats, birds and fish. The legislation addresses only some of these tests, and it doesn’t forbid them. But animal welfare groups say it sets an important precedent that is a reflection of both changing public attitudes and a slow, ongoing movement away from animal testing by some industries and research agencies. The National Institutes of Health, for example, has deemed biomedical research using chimpanzees unnecessary and ended it.
Kudos and thanks to PCRM and all the other great animal activists who worked diligently on this issue, and thanks especially to Corey Booker, who spearheaded the inclusion of the provisions. The bill has already passed the House and President Obama is expected to sign.
From hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions…
2) As Vox reported yesterday:
In a massive victory for animal rights activists, and for America’s chickens, United Egg Producers, a group that represents 95 percent of all eggs produced in the United States, has announced that it will eliminate culling of male chicks at hatcheries where egg-laying hens are born by 2020.
This may sound like a technical development, but its magnitude in humanitarian terms is difficult to overstate. That’s because standard practice at hatcheries that supply egg farms with hens is to kill almost all male chicks shortly after birth, usually by grinding them to death, as you can see in this horrifying video…
Gassing is also sometimes used. [Also, many are buried alive.–HR.] Hundreds of millions of male chicks are killed this way, every year, in the United States alone.
Ending chick culling has become possible recently due to technology. United Egg Producers says it will replace culling with “in-ovo egg sexing.” This is a process that can determine the sex of chicks before they develop inside their egg. That enables egg producers to terminate the male eggs and potentially use them to help make vaccines or for pet food (most humans would presumably be grossed out by cooking fertilized eggs). Horrific infanticides will be replaced with humane, painless chicken abortions.
This link contains a good description of the in-ovo process and technology.
Egg consumption is declining big-time, as people say no to both the cholesterol and the cruelty, and also as great plant-based alternatives come on the market. So that may also have something to do with the announcement.
Kudos to the activists at the Humane League who helped make this happen, and here’s to an ever kinder and less violent world.