As the “Humane Society” of the United States (HSUS) continues its animal-rights smear campaign against American egg farmers by accusing them of playing Russian Roulette with public health, it’s standing on a house of cards. HSUS is demanding that egg producers go “cage-free,” claiming that recent academic research blames cages—currently used on the vast majority of US egg farms—for salmonella contamination. As we’ve explained, HSUS is spinning the science, most of which is preliminary and full of confounding factors like vaccination rates and flock size.

Today the Associated Press covers the “cage-free” barnyard brawl, and even the usual fear-mongering suspects aren’t buying HSUS’s arguments:

"There's no reason to think the (large-farm) birds are any worse off from the salmonella standpoint," said Marion Nestle, a professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. "If anything, I think the other ones have greater chance of transmission."

Caged birds, she explained, are kept off the ground and at least seem less likely to walk around in bacteria-laden feces. Most eggs in the U.S. come from caged hens, regardless of the size of the farm. …

Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said well-managed farms can be big or small.

So on one side of the salmonella debate stand the career vegans at HSUS, and on the other side are farmers and agriculture scientists—and now the usually grouchy Center for Science in the Public Interest and anti-food industry maven Marion Nestle.

Still, we expect HSUS to stick to its guns. Its “cage-free” game plan, after all, aims to force expensive infrastructure changes on egg farmers and put as many as possible out of business. This in turn will raise the cost of eggs for consumers and drive down consumption.

As for the nonsensical claims about hen cages and public health, HSUS is hoping that repeating the Big Lie often enough will somehow make it true. Perhaps if there were any veterinarians among HSUS’s senior staff (just one!), the group might have more credible information to work with.