D.C. Organisation Educates Public on Hen Abuses
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


Anai Rhoads
Photos from Animal Exploitation Photo Journals
 June 2003

" There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is." - Isaac Bashevis Singer. [1]

The average egg production facilities can house upwards of a million birds, which poses a problem when it comes to space.

In order to maximise space and provide efficient production, the cages themselves are stacked like steps, one on top of the other. The only advantage the hens on the top row have is that they do not receive a steady rain of faeces. Although most of the faeces fall into a pit below the cages, many hens were found to be in an unsanitary condition.

Since the hens are kept at eight, and sometimes even ten to a cage, it becomes difficult for them to manoeuvre, let alone perform their natural function, which is to produce eggs. But this issue is one of several that are worrisome.

The claustrophobic surroundings, lack of sunlight and dirty conditions have a Washington, D.C. based organisation in a race to provide a humane environment for the hens.

Compassion Over Killing, a non-profit organisation founded in 1995, works primarily to investigate and expose abuses of the meat, egg, and dairy industries.

Fowl make up more than 95% of the farm livestock eaten in the U.S. annually. Not all of the poultry are egg-laying hens, however. Most are broiler chickens that are used for consumption. There are about 280 million egg-laying hens, as compared to the staggering 9 billion broiler chickens or more, slaughtered annually in the U.S.

Featured in over a hundred media outlets, including Fox News, New York Times, and The Washington Post, COK has managed to expose three major egg farms: ISE-America, County Fair Farms, and Red Bird Egg Farms in the last two years alone.

Their discovery included countless dead hens in cages where live hens were left to watch. Some hens were found trapped within the wires of their cages, some alive, some dead. Most showed a great deal of suffering as they were dehydrated and only mere inches away from water.

The hens who managed to escape from their cages, were found wandering around the sheds, some falling into manure pits. Many showed signs of infection, growths and other serious health problems.

"When you look through the photo galleries of our investigation sites, you can see that the scenes are not easy to bear witness to," the organisation's campaign director, Paul Shapiro* expressed. He went on to say, "However, we can leave those factory farms whenever we want -- the animals can't. It's our job to expose their misery to the public in the hopes that more people will remove their financial support from the egg industry". [2]

Forced Moulting

Hens are typically forced to moult to increase egg production. This process involves starving the chickens of natural daylight, restriction of food and water. Aside from the obvious sanitary issues, this "forced moulting" has been shown to increase our risk of contracting salmonella poisoning from the eggs and hens themselves.

According to the Journal of Applied Poultry Research, the withdrawal of feed from commercial egg production hens leads to a conventional moult within a 10 day feed withdrawal. Restricting and/or eliminating feed from the hens - something we consider "starvation", is the industry's method of choice when it comes to inducing a hen's moulting state. [3]

Artificially manipulating this natural process, forces hens to lay eggs for up to 10 months. This non-stop production, is then followed by slaughter when the hens are no longer considered useful.

Further Abuses

The industry has also managed to deceive consumers by claiming there are no hormones involved. They fail to warn the public of the antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemicals consistently used by the farmers in order to produce marketable eggs.

Egg yolks alone are chemically dyed to achieve a "natural" yellow look since the hens are deprived of sunlight.

Further evidence that hens should not be caged together, is the barbaric method of "debeaking". Laying hens are literally debeaked in order to reduce cannibalism in overstocked cages. The hen's upper beak is sliced off a pre-heated steel blade. Many hens die of shock from this. Those who manage to survive are left to live out a slow and painful existence within the cages.


Where Do the Males Go?

Much like the procedures most farming industries use with male animals, the males chicks have little or no value to the farmer. They are discarded within plastic bags, where they suffocate.


Some farms, however, have a different method of ridding of the male offspring. They throw them dead or alive into feed grinders. Later, the feed is given to sustain the livestock. [4]

Who is Really Ruling the Roost?

Unfortunately, there are no known federal or state laws that prohibit any of these industry practices. Current "suggestions" ask that the industry remove one hen from the cage to allow the others to move more freely.

Most farmers do not believe this is worthwhile. They feel it would not be in their best interest to create more room for the hens. Since there are no laws to enforce a change, the farms continue to do as they please.

All animals used for food production are excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act and most state humane laws fail to monitor any livestock. The only federal law for livestock relates to transportation, where farmers are allowed to transport animals for up to 36 hours without sufficient food and water. The law currently does not recognise the overcrowding issues.

While human slavery in the United States was abolished years ago, animal cruelty and slavery continues. Caged, chained, sold at auctions, forced to perform for crowds, beaten, abused and slaughtered. The realities of animal abuses, when it comes to farm animals, are mostly ignored by our society. The fact remains, for most, that a pet in one's home holds more value and is treated with more respect than one thought of as "food".

"We can each take a powerful stand against animal abuse by becoming vegan. Egg-laying hens are abused because there is a market for their eggs." Shapiro further points out, "As soon as we stop buying eggs, the cruelty will stop. As such, COK's main outreach efforts are not toward the heads of egg companies, but rather toward the public awareness".

Thinking about free-range chickens or eggs? Think again. In March 1998, Consumer Reports publicly disclosed a report stating that free-range poultry and their eggs are more of a danger as they actually have more salmonella and campylobacter than ordinary poultry. The word "free-range" quickly loses its meaning.

If you would like to contact the farms investigated by COK by using the information from their web site, please click here

Write to the farms directly and voice your opinion:

CFF 695 Bachmans Valley Rd. Westminster MD 21158

RBEF Corporate HQ 1701 Red Lion Road Bear, DE 19701 (302) 834-4673

RBEF MD Location 33265 Walnut Tree Rd Millington MD 21651 (410) 928-5343

The industry will continue on this path as long as American consumers choose to make egg production a high priority. The choice is clear - do not buy eggs.

For ideas on how to replace the eggs in your recipes, please visit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Compassion Over Killing offers a free Vegetarian Starter Guide for those who would like more information.

* Paul Shapiro holds a bachelors degree in peace studies from George Washington University and once taught peace studies at a public D.C. high school. He has been COK's campaign director since 1995. Mr. Shapiro currently resides in Takoma Park, Md.

[1] Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991)

[2] Journal of Applied Poultry Research, Vol. 2, 1993, p. 107

[3] Compassion Over Killing - Investigations Eggribusiness The Humane Farming Association (HFA).

Copyright 2003 Anai Rhoads. Permission to reprint this article in its entirety may be granted with a written request to the author: anairhoads@rhoadsdev.com

Return to Animal Rights Articles