Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Cruelest of All Factory Farm Products: Eggs From Caged Hens

www.huffingtonpost.com - January 29th, 2013

Battery cages are small wire cages where about 95 percent of laying hens spend their entire lives; each hen is given about 67-76 square inches of space (a standard sheet of paper measures 94 square inches). To get a sense of a hen's life in a battery cage, imagine spending your entire life in a wire cage the size of your bathtub with four other people. You wouldn't be able to move, so your muscles and bones would deteriorate. Your feet would become lacerated. You would go insane. That's precisely what happens to laying hens.

In the United States, roughly nine billion chickens, pigs and other farm animals are consumed annually, and the vast majority of them are abused in ways that would warrant felony cruelty to animals charges were dogs or cats the victims. But three systems are particularly cruel -- gestation crates for pregnant pigs, veal crates for calves, and battery cages for laying hens. As of Jan. 1, all three are illegal across Europe, and it is past time for the United States and Canada to follow suit.

After decades of consumer outcry, the veal industry recently took the important step of announcing that it will work toward eliminating the crate confinement of calves. And as discussed previously, gestation crates may also be headed for the dust bin of history. While this is positive news for pigs and calves, there is currently no clear end in sight for battery cages, with roughly 95 percent of all eggs in the U.S. still coming from caged hens. There are roughly 4.5 million mother pigs and fewer than 500,000 calves in crates, and approximately 250 million hens in battery cages. So for every caged calf or pig, there are roughly 50 caged hens.

Barren battery cages are so hideously cruel that in addition to having been outlawed across the European Union, they have been condemned by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which included former Kansas governor John Carlin, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman (who also chaired the House Agriculture committee), as well as farmers and ranchers. They're also condemned by every animal protection group in the world.

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