United Poultry Concerns
March 13, 2000
CA Bill to Ban Forced Molting
California Assembly Bill 2141
Introduced by Assemblyman Ted Lempert

A precedent-setting bill has been introduced in California, under the California Health and Safety Code, that would make it "Unlawful to intentionally deprive any bird used for egg-laying purposes of water or food or both on a daily basis or otherwise cause an induced or forced molt that results in harm to the bird."

The practice of forced molting has been identified as a primary cause of Salmonella enteritidis in hens and their eggs. The accompanying Fact Sheet summarizes this information.

We are asking for your support for this piece of legislation. Please send a short letter stating your personal and/or organizational support to Assemblyman Dennis A. Cardoza, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, by March 25th.

Please send a copy of your letter to Assemblyman Ted Lempert (so Mr. Lempert's office has copies in case any letter should get "lost" in Mr. Cardoza's office).

If you are in Assembly Member Dennis Cardoza's district, please let him know that you are a constituent and that you want him to support this bill!

The Honorable Dennis A. Cardoza, Chair
Agriculture Committee, Room 2141
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: 916-319-2184
Tel: 916-319-2084
The Honorable Ted Lempert
State Capitol, Room 2188
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: 916-319-2121
Tel: 916-319-2021
For more information contact United Poultry Concerns (Machipongo, VA Tel 757-678-7875), or the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (Davis CA Tel 530-759-8106), or PETA (Norfolk, VA Tel 757-622-7382, ext 492). Please send your written letter of support for AB 2141 to Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza (plus a copy to Assemblyman Ted Lempert) immediately. Thank you very much.

Forced Molting of "Laying" Hens
Fact Sheet

Forced molting is a starvation practice employed by the US egg industry to manipulate egg laying and the economics of production. It involves the removal of ALL food from hens used for commercial egg production for 5 to 14 full days (typically 10 to 14 days) to manipulate the hormones responsible for egg production and feather cover. Forced molting is designed to force the birds to lose 25 to 35 percent of their body weight, particularly the abnormal fat that clogs the birds' oviducts from lack of exercise in confinement.

Forced molting is cruel. In most states, intentionally depriving an animal of sustenance is recognized as cruel and punishable under the law as a misdemeanor or felony. Additionally, the birds' feathers are plucked by other starving birds in their desperate effort to satisfy their hunger. The combined stresses of being plucked by starving cagemates and artificially molted results in the fact that, according to Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 1990, Vol. 25:97-105, during the forced molt, "most parts of their [the hens'] skin are bare with no feathers." Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Animal Well-Being Task Group has acknowledged the fact that forced molting diminishes the birds' welfare. Forced molting is prohibited under both U.K. and European legislation.

This practice affects millions of birds. Each year, more than 25 million birds are used for egg laying purposes in California. According to Donald Bell, a poultry specialist at the University of California, Riverside, at least 90 percent are force molted. The egg industry estimates an average death loss of 1.5 percent of molted flocks. This means that well over 300,000 hens die from this starvation practice. Thousands more die subsequent to the molt from stress and crop impaction, as a result of gorging and atrophied muscles.

Forced molting impacts bird and consumer health. Scientific studies show that forced molting causes severe stress in the birds resulting in disease. It significantly depresses the cellular immune response and increases the severity of concurrent intestinal Salmonella enteritidis (Se) infection. According to World Poultry-Misset, 1996, Vol. 12, No. 9, "While unmolted hens usually have to ingest about 50,000 Salmonella cells to become infected, molted hens need fewer than 10." The ability of Se to infect hens' ovaries while their eggs are being formed permits the bacteria to contaminate the contents of intact eggs sold to consumers.

Government agencies agree that forced molting is a severe stress that increases consumer health risks. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety & Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS), "FSIS recognizes that public health concerns are raised by highly stressful forced molting practices. For example, extended starvation and water deprivation practices lead to increased shedding of Salmonella enteritidis (Se) by laying hens subjected to these practices. Therefore, in an effort to reduce human illnesses caused by Se, FSIS is encouraging poultry and egg producers to eliminate forced molting practices and adopt alternatives that reduce public health risks" (April 21, 1998). The USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service stated (August 21, 1998) that the USDA Farm Animal Well-Being Task Group expressed "serious concerns regarding the practice of forced molting of poultry" with respect to "the humaneness of this practice as well as the food safety issue." The Group provided a risk assessment (July 21, 1998) that human Salmonella infections from eggs could be "reduced by 2.1 percent if forced molting were eliminated." In California, this would translate to approximately 800 cases each year.

Eggs are the major identified source of Salmonella enteritidis (Se) infection in humans. According to the USDA, approximately 1 in every 20,000 eggs is infected. This means that, in California, there are at least 330,000 plus infected eggs produced every year. California Public Health Service statistics show that there were 1,219 reported cases of Se in California in 1998 although, according to the National Center for Infectious Diseases, the actual number of cases is at least 38 times the number of those reported. This means that, in California in 1998, there were more than 46,000 cases of Se, 82 percent of which were likely attributable to eggs, According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1998, Vol. 213, No. 12, in 1996, 23 percent of all Se isolates in the United States were from California. And, in 1994, phage type 4 Se was isolated from a poultry farm in California, a type, according to David Swerdlow, an epidemiologist with the CDC, that has been known to be one of the most transmittable forms of Se that may result in a 4-to-5 fold increase in the number of Se illnesses. While the U.S. egg industry has been directed by the USDA to eliminate forced molting, the egg industry fights to retain it, regardless of the human health costs and the birds' suffering.

Forced molting is a root cause of Se. Gary D. Butcher, DVM, a poultry veterinarian, and Richard Miles, PhD, a poultry nutritionist at the University of Florida, state unconditionally: "No matter what specific or combination of factors are involved in causing increased susceptibility of laying hens to SE infection, the fact remains that laying hens undergoing a forced molt by feed removal are under stress and are more likely to become salmonella shedders as compared to non-molted hens."

United Poultry Concerns. March 13, 2000

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(Action Alert - CA Bill to Ban Forced Molting)