Animals as Food
of 2012 the European Union has agreed to ban the use of battery
cages for egg-laying hens. No such ban seems imminent in the USA,
however, such an achievement in Europe gives us much hope.
Like "broilers", layers are de-beaked, with hot knives,
which often cause blisters in their mouths. The knife cuts through
an area of sensitive tissue similar to the quick of a human nail.
This procedure is carried out to prevent the cannibalism that will
occur only under such hideously crowded conditions . A typical cage
is 12x20 inches and contains four or five birds.
Cages are stacked in tiers with sloping wire floors so that excrement
will drop through and eggs will roll aside. This assures the hens,
whose claws are designed for a life scratching in dirt, a life of
pain. Damage to feet is the norm. Birds' toenails have become permanently
tangled in the wire, in which cases the flesh has grown accordingly
around the wire, leaving the birds soldered to their cages.
Chickens are raised to be "breeders" or "layers."
Of the type that lay eggs, all the male chicks (an estimated 240
million a year) are killed shortly after hatching. One method of
killing them is to grind them up, live, turning them into feed for
their commercially valuable sisters.
When egg production declines, the hens are stimulated to molt,
since the birds will lay eggs again after molting. This forced molting
involves shocking the birds by withholding food, and often water,
for a period of up to 14 days.
When the hens are so far-gone that forced molting ceases to work,
they are slaughtered for chicken soup or pot pie.
"Organic" or free range layers may be kept in somewhat
better conditions. Their ultimate fate is the same.
Chickens are exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act. At the slaughterhouse
they are hung upside down, fully conscious, on a moving rail. They
are dipped in electrified water which stuns them enough to immobilize
them but not knock them unconscious. A mechanical blade slices their
necks and they bleed to death. However the mechanical blade is far
from 100% effective. Chickens missed and boiled alive are referred
to in the industry as "redskins."
Karen Davis from United Poultry Concerns is the "expert"
on this issue. To learn more, check out: http://www.upc-online.org/slaughter/report.html.
In August, 2000, McDonald's, after years of pressure from PETA
announced that it will require improvements from its egg suppliers,
with regard to the way the hens are treated. McDonald's will soon
cease buying from suppliers that engage in forced molting and debeaking.
And the company will require that cages give each hen 70 square
inches - enough so that all birds can lie down. This is a wonderful
start, as the rest of the industry may well follow suit. However,
hens will still not be able to engage in any natural practices,
or even be able to spread their wings.