Thursday, October 6, 2011

Eggs Part 2 (The Chickens)

Perhaps, like me, you've spent years enjoying omelettes and baked goods made with eggs, never realizing the tremendous suffering that egg-laying hens have endured in the process. This Daily Vegan contains need-to-know information on how these hens and their male chicks live and die. The first portion is an overview of the living conditions among egg-laying hens. The second part includes excerpts from news articles and undercover investigations on the egg industry. The third contains information on hopeful legislation that's being proposed at the federal level and how you can get involved if you choose.
Although I am happy about such proposed widespread reforms within the egg industry, which will surely enhance the quality of life for chickens, I'm still saddened that these birds will still be confined, used for their eggs, and then slaughtered when they are no longer considered "useful". This legislation also will not change the fact that millions of male chicks are seized from their mothers and killed annually, shortly after birth. I encourage you to read through this post and to check out some of the video links. Viewing these egg-laying hens' conditions, there's no doubt they are treated not as fellow beings, but as pure commodities for human use and consumption.

The Lives of Egg-Laying Chickens:

The following is from a well-referenced report produced by Compassion Over Killing (

In the United States, there are more than 300 million laying hens produce eggs, the majority of whom (more than 90 percent) are confined in small, wire cages known as "battery cages."

These "battery hens" suffer from a number of debilitating welfare problems, including the thwarting of natural behaviors, bone weakness and breakage, feather loss, and numerous diseases.

The life of a battery hen begins in a commercial hatchery, where thousands of chicks are hatched in industrial incubators. Male chicks are of no value to the egg industry and are killed shortly after birth, usually by gassing, crushing, or suffocation. The female chicks have part of their beaks seared off with a hot blade. This "beak trimming" is performed without anesthesia or analgesia. Chickens have pain receptors in their beaks, and research has shown that hens likely experience both acute and chronic pain as a result of "beak trimming." After this procedure, the chicks are transported to indoor egg farms and placed in battery cages.
Each wire battery cage normally houses three to ten hens. Each bird lives for more than a year in a space just over half the area of a letter-sized sheet of paper. But hens need an average of 72 square inches just to stand erect, 178 inches to preen, 197 inches to turn around, and 291 inches to flap their wings. Thus, hens in battery cages cannot perform any of these important natural behaviors, nor can they perch, preen, dustbathe, or nest. As a consequence, hens show signs of severe frustration and low welfare.

Battery cages contribute to a number of health problems, including uterine prolapse (when the uterus is pushed outside the body of a hen), foot disorders caused by the slanted wire floors of most battery cages, and Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome. Because a large amount of calcium goes into egg production, almost all battery hens suffer from osteoporosis, which is exacerbated by lack of exercise in cages.

At the end of their laying cycle, most hens in U.S. egg factory farms are "forced molted," or purposefully starved for 10 to 14 days, to induce another laying cycle. Forced molting can double the mortality of a flock and is believed to cause significant suffering among birds.

After the second laying cycle, battery hens are gathered and transported to slaughter plants. At the plants, the hens are shackled by their legs and hung upside-down on a long conveyer belt. Shackling often breaks the hens' fragile bones; by the time of slaughter, close to half of the birds have suffered broken bones.

The hens are then submerged into an electrified water bath, which is supposed to render them unconscious, but many birds have their throats slit while fully conscious. Birds are not protected by the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and are thus not required to be unconscious before being killed. Standard industry practices cause battery hens to experience both acute and chronic pain. The treatment of these animals would be illegal if anti-cruelty laws applied to farmed animals, as they don't in most states.

To view video footage from COK's undercover investigations, please visit:

Cruelty In The Egg Industry Exposed:
From Mercy For Animals (
On Monday, June 7, 2010, as part of a landmark civil settlement stemming from a Mercy For Animals undercover investigation, Quality Egg of New England, one of the largest egg producers in the nation, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of cruelty to animals. The factory farm also agreed to pay over $130,000 in fines and restitution, as well as hand over authority to the state of Maine to conduct unannounced inspections of the factory farm for the next five years.
The historic settlement is the result of a 2008-2009 MFA investigation at the facility, which documented shocking cruelty to egg-laying hens at QENE's Turner, Maine farm. Abuses uncovered included:
  • Workers and managers killing birds by grabbing their necks and swinging them around in circles – attempts to break their necks which often resulted in prolonged, torturous deaths for the hens.
  • Supervisors and workers throwing live birds into trash cans.
  • Birds suffering from broken bones, bloody open wounds, untreated infections and uterine prolapses.
  • Hens confined four to six in tiny wire cages so small they were unable to stretch their wings, move freely or engage in other basic behaviors.
  • Birds trapped in the wire of their cages or under the feeding trays without access to food or water.
  • Rotting carcasses in cages with live hens still laying eggs for human consumption.
During the time of the undercover investigation, QENE was certified by the United Egg Producers' (UEP) voluntary animal care program. This factory farm's admission to 10 counts of cruelty to animals is further evidence that the UEP program fails to prevent cruelty and abuse.
The findings of MFA's latest egg facility investigation are similar to those documented at numerous egg farms across the country in recent years – illustrating that animal neglect and abuse are the egg industry standard, not the exception.
For the corresponding video footage, please visit:

From the Farm Sanctuary website (  
One of California's top egg producers exposed.
In 2005, following a Farm Sanctuary exposé of Gemperle Farms, one of California's largest egg producers with over 2 million hens, Trader Joe's agreed to limit its sales of eggs from caged hens. The 2005 footage revealed horrific conditions in which hens are packed into dilapidated wire cages, suffering and dying amid filth.

In early 2007, Farm Sanctuary received more footage from Gemperle Farms' battery-cage facilities showing identical conditions. Although Trader Joe’s subsequently stopped selling eggs from Gemperle Farms, major supermarkets all over the West, including Safeway, Albertson's and others continue to purchase eggs from Gemperle Farms. And Trader Joe’s continues to sell battery-cage eggs from only the nation’s largest industrialized factory egg farms, where conditions are inherently horrific.

Click here to view video.

Although Farm Sanctuary's exposés of Gemperle Farms show horrifying conditions, the unfortunate fact is that they are par for the course in egg factory farms all over the U.S.

'Disturbing' undercover video shows dying chicks, ducklings at Live Oak hatchery

By Cathy Kelly
The District Attorney's Office released a statement late Wednesday intimating they had insufficient evidence to prosecute.
The four-minute video was shot by an undercover employee at Cal-Cruz Hatcheries during a three-week period last year, said Erica Meier, director of Compassion Over Killing, a Washington D.C. nonprofit that advocates for humane treatment of farm animals and vegetarianism.
It shows workers treating the chirping small birds as commodities, seemingly without notice of their pain, and allowing them to flail around where they fell, after being chewed up by machinery or otherwise fatally mangled.
The company president said he plans to make some changes to avoid suffering.
But Meier called the treatment of the newborns at the Rodriguez Street business "routine and appalling mistreatment." She said the hatchery was chosen simply because they saw a job opening there, and the investigator was hired.
A subsequent investigation by county Animal Services found evidence of what they considered cruel as well, and officers confiscated 88 ducklings on the day they visited, said Lynn Miller, the agency's interim manager.

The company has phased out the duckling operation, but hatches 100,000 chicks each day, he said. They are shipped out to West Coast ranches within 24 hours.
"Some do get lost, and I'm not saying it's OK," said Brian Collins, long-time president of the hatchery. "But put it in perspective; it's a very small percentage. And it's a consumer-driven market; we have to keep the costs low."

The company's 15 or so employees will be instructed to dispose of the culled chicks sooner, he said, which is done via a high-speed vacuum. Other legal methods include grinding or gassing the birds, he said.
Collins admitted employees get desensitized to the birds, despite training to the contrary.
"We will ask them to be more sensitive to what they are doing," he said. "We go through this, but evidently not enough."
He said it costs about $2.50 per dozen to produce the hatchlings.
The video can be found at
But There Is Hope...

From (Humane Society of the United States), July 7, 2011:
The Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers announce an unprecedented agreement to work together toward the enactment of comprehensive new federal legislation for all 280 million hens involved in U.S. egg production. The proposed standards advocated by UEP and HSUS, if enacted, would define the first federal law addressing the treatment of animals on farms.

The proposed legislation would:
• require conventional ("battery") cages (currently used by more than 90 percent of the egg industry) to be replaced, through an ample phase-in period, with new, enriched housing systems that provide each hen nearly double the amount of space they’re currently allotted

• require that all egg-laying hens be provided, through the new enriched housing system, with environments that will allow them to express natural behaviors, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas

• mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, such as “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” and “eggs from free-range hens”

• prohibit feed- or water-withholding molting to extend the laying cycle

• require standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for euthanasia for egg-laying hens

• prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses

• prohibit the sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements

The two groups will jointly ask Congress for federal legislation which would require egg producers to increase space per bird in a tiered phase in, with the amount of space birds are given increasing, in intervals, over the next 15 to 18 years.

If passed by Congress, the legislation would supersede state laws including those that have been passed in Arizona, California, Michigan and Ohio.
In recognition of ballot Proposition 2 passed by voters in that California in 2008, UEP and HSUS will ask Congress to require California egg producerswith nearly 20 million laying hensto eliminate conventional cages by 2015 (the date Prop 2 is scheduled to go into effect), and provide all hens with the space and environmental enrichments that the rest of the egg industry will be phasing in over the next 15 to 18 years.

How You Can Help*
If you, too, are appalled by the rampant abuses of chicks and egg-laying hens, contact your state's legislators via and Let them know you support the passage of this proposed federal legislation to improve living conditions for egg-laying chickens.

You can also visit, click on the Issues link, and then the Farm Animal Protection link to view and submit a sample email to your legislators.
*This legislation will likely be proposed in Congress in the next week or two.

No comments:

Post a Comment