Did you have an egg with breakfast today? If so, perhaps you shouldn't watch the video clip above. It's truly horrifying.
The Humane Society of the United States went undercover to reveal the problems it found at an egg factory (well, I suppose you could call it a "farm" but it's operates more like an industrial factory, churning out millions of eggs every year) owned by Kreider Farms, a major egg producer in Pennsylvania.
The following problems, among others, were documented by the HSUS investigator.
- Birds were severely overcrowded in cages more cramped than the national average; each hen received only 54–58 square inches of space on which to spend her life.
- Injured and dead hens, including mummified bird carcasses, were found inside cages with living hens laying eggs for human consumption.
- Hens were left without water for days when a water source malfunctioned, causing many to die.
- Hens' legs, wings, and heads were found trapped in cage wires and automated feeding machinery.
- A thick layer of dead flies on the barn floors caused a crunching sound when walking on it.
The welfare of egg-laying chicken has been a battleground between the industry trade group United Egg Producers and The Humane Society for years, and recently, the two sides actually came together to support new rules [PDF] for egg farmers (A few months ago, NPR's Morning Edition ran an interesting story of how the two bitter adversaries actually came to work together - it all started with breakfast, of course).
The Kreider Farms opposed the proposed legislation. That got The Humane Society to start investigation as to why. Before you condemn the entire industry, you should know that it already has voluntary standards on how to raise chicken, but as you can see in the video clip above, Kreider's operation seems to fall well below that (the company denies this).
Yes, it's easy to say that egg producers - whether they be big companies or small farmers - should stick to using cage-free chicken, but that comes at an economic cost, as the Europeans are finding out when egg prices shot up about 250% in some regions.
For those who are wavering, think for a moment about the arc of empathy. Centuries ago, we humans amused ourselves by seeing other people executed or tortured. Until modern times, we considered it sport to see animals die horrible deaths. Now our sensibilities have evolved so that there is an outcry when animals are abused — unless it happens out of sight on farms.
The police would stop wayward boys who were torturing a stray dog, so should we allow industrialists to abuse millions of hens? Shouldn’t we agree on minimum standards?
Link: Undercover at Kreider Farms [PDF]