Dalai Lama to chicken farmers: Let your hens roam and your eggs be salmonella-free

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When it comes to folks getting their feathers ruffled amid the largest egg recall in U.S. history, which people jump to mind?

Federal investigators? Of course. Lawmakers? Food safety experts? Sure.


The Dalai Lama?

It’s true. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate issued a statement late last week that (ever so nicely) lambastes egg farmers in commercial agriculture and advocates that consumers switch to cage-free eggs.

“The abuse we inflict on hens has always been particularly disturbing to me, and I have always been particularly concerned toward how these animals are treated in industrial food production,” the Dalai Lama wrote. “I was troubled to learn from my friends at the Humane Society of the United States about the practice of confining egg laying hens in tiny cages.” (To read the whole statement, click here.)

Given all of the serious problems the world is facing these days, the Dalai Lama opining on the benefits of cage-free eggs may seem like kind of a surprise.

Not to the HSUS. Turns out that the group has a “faith outreach” staff, whose job is to touch base with religious leaders in the U.S. and internationally, to talk about “animal protection issues,” according to the group’s website.

And timing is everything. When the Dalai Lama came out with an egg-related statement, HSUS was quick to tout how it relates to its support of cage-free farming practices -- and how, the group alleges, cage-free eggs are safer eggs for consumers to eat.

The group was instrumental in getting California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act passed and signed into law. The measure, which passed by more than 63% of the vote, banned small, confining crates or cages or veal calves, egg-laying hens and pregnant sows. Farmers have until January 2015 to phase out their existing structures and build new facilities. The bill’s success created a ripple effect, putting pressure on other states to pass similar reforms.

HSUS isn’t the only group to be leveraging the egg recall to try to rally support for its cause: Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy group, launched a membership drive with e-mail pleas that opened with “It’s Time to Stop the Corporate Bad Eggs From Controlling Our Food.”

--P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: The Dalai Lama. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times