History / Workers'
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Factory Egg Farming is bad for the HENS...
Battery hens live in highly automated, windowless sheds containing up
to 100,000 hens; they are cramped in long rows of stacked "battery cages."
Up to 10 hens may inhabit an area of 2.33 ft sq. That is less than
half the size of a sheet of A4 (8.5x11) paper per hen; they have a wingspan
of 30-32 inches. Battery cages have sloping wire floors that prevent
a hen from sitting, sometimes causing a hen's feet to grow around the bars
leaving her immobile and starving to death. Battery cages have wire
walls in which hens often get their head stuck, leading to a slow death
Male chicks, who are of no value to the egg industry, are immediately
killed. They are either tossed into garbage bags, left to suffocate
or to be crushed, or are macerated in high-speed grinders.
For the female chicks, after birth they are kept in grow out buildings
for about 20 weeks. They are often kept in dark except at feeding
Battery hens are housed in flocks up to 1,000 times their natural size,
battery hens are unable to establish a social hierarchy normal to free
flocks. The size and nature of the cages prevents hens from spreading
or stretching their wings. They are prevented the basic natural instincts
of perching, scratching, roosting, dust-bathing, and nesting quietly.
They are thus caused to become aggressive and attack other hens.
A hen may be immobilized by having her toes grow around the floor or
by catching her head or wing in the bars of her cages. Unable to
access food or water she will die. Instead of allowing hens material
to scratch their toes on to prevent overgrowth some farmers remedy the
situation by simplying clipping the hens' toes.
According to Dr. Lesley J. Rogers, in The Development of Brain and
Behavior in the Chicken, "In no way can these living conditions meet
the demands of a complex nervous system designed to form a multitude of
memories and make complex decisions" (Dr. Lesley J. Rogers, The Development
of Brain and Behavior in the Chicken, cited in Davis, Karen, Prisoned
Chickens, Poisoned Eggs, Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company, 1996,
Battery hens suffer from feather-loss, blisters, tumors, foot and leg
deformities (they choose more natural floors over wire-mesh even if have
always been kept on wire), osteoporosis (eggshells come from the bones,
and the bones became weaker and weaker as they make more and more eggs),
Fatty Liver Syndrome, Swollen Head Syndrome, heat stress, mash, mold toxins,
mouth ulcers and many other diseases. Veterinary care is non-existent,
as individual hens are considered cheap and expendable. Critically
ill birds are thrown onto "dead piles."
To reduce cannibalism among frustrated hens, laying hens are often "debeaked"
|Debeaking (or "beak trimming") - A blade or laser is used to
lop off a up to two-thirds of the top beak and the tip of the bottom beak.
Many hens die from shock; others may feel lifelong pain or suffer from
a permanent reduction in feeding. Evidence suggests phantom limb pain,
and neuromas [tumors] form in the damaged tissue of the amputated beak
In 1992, a poultry researcher at the University of Guelph in Ontario
explained, "there is now good morphological, neurological, and behavioral
evidence that beak trimming leads to both acute and chronic pain" (cited
in Prisoned Chickens Poisoned Eggs, p. 68). "Sometimes the
irregular growth of beaks on debeaked birds makes it difficult or impossible
to drink where a normal bird would have no trouble" (Mason, Jim and Singer,
Peter, Animal Factories (rev. ed.), New York: NY: Harmony Books,
1990, p. 39).
for more information on debeaking.
"It didn't take poultry produces long to figure out that control over
light meant control over productionÖ Egg producers try to create
the illusion of eternal spring by keeping the lights on a little longer
each day. After about a year of this, the flock's productivity drops,
and many producers use 'force molting' to revive it" (Animal Factories,
p. 50). The egg industry molts hens by starving them for up
to 3 weeks. During the forced molt, mortality doubles each week.
This process shocks the hens into another laying cycle. Force-molting
has also been linked to higher rates of Salmonella. The practice
has been banned in Great Britain since 1987.
Battery hens are fed hormones and antibiotics; they are prone to bacterial
infections and exposed to pesticides. "The egg industry adds antioxidants
to chicken feed to lengthen hens' laying cycles. These chemicals
inhibit the formation of peroxides during the birds' metabolic activities,
which can damage and age hens' egg-producing calls and tissues. Poultry
producers use arsenical compounds to speed growth, raise feed efficiency,
and boost egg production" (Animal Factories, p. 68). "Some
egg producers use power sprayers that roll along the aisles shooting mists
of insecticides up through the cage floors onto the birds" (Animal Factories,
"Life is so hard in the cages of the automated layer house that 25 percent
of the hens put in the cages die or are'ëculled' during an average eighteen-month
laying cycle" (Animal Factories, p. 110).
"Losses from disease and stress run high in the caged layer house.
Some producers told us with pride that the 'cull rate' - the percentage
dead and dying birds removed from the cages each day - was quite low, that
it ran between 1 and 1.5 percent each month. That seemed quite low
until we realized it added up to a loss of 12 to 18 percent of the original
flock by the end of the first year in the cages. In most cases, layer
hens are kept in the cages for eighteen to twenty months or more.
The cull rate generally increases as the birds age, but let's assume that
it remains constant at 1.25 per month. We find that the egg industry
is accustomed to losing about one-quarter of its birds by the time their
short egg-productive lives are over" (Animal Factories, p. 25).
"Under natural conditions chickens can live as long as fifteen to twenty
years; in the modern egg factory, however, hens last only about a year
and a half." (Animal Factories, p. 6).
In 1888 the average hen laid 100 eggs per year; now
she lays 257. "Layer hens of the 1930s produced an average of
121 eggs a year. Through genetics, today's hens nearly double that
figure. But apparently this is not productive enough, for poultry
scientists keep trying to develop a 'superchicken' that will lay an egg
a day" (Animal Factories, p. 43).
According to industry magazine, Feedstuff, "At higher egg process,
crowding always results in greater profits." (Robert H. Brown , "Toe-Clipping
May Help Hens, Improve Returns in Crowded Cages" Feedstuff, May 27, 1985,
cited in Animal Factories, p. 161).
The study "Effect of Density on Caged Layers" claimed that a higher
degree of crowding in cages, even though it pushed up mortality, produced
better profits if the price of eggs was above a given point, meaning: when
eggs are expensive hens are cheap. This simple economic fact gives
the lie to claims that since animals in factory farms are productive, they
must live happy contented lives. Even if it were true that putting
on weight is a sign of well-being - which it is not - productivity of individual
animals is not what counts in factory farm economics. As the studies
above illustrate, individual animals' well-being and productivity can suffer
as long as more dozens of eggs can be squeezed from a factory building"
(Animal Factories, p. 55).
A hen's body may collapse from the exhaustion of frequent laying, or
the hens in a shed may be determined to be "spent." Spent hens have
no commercial value because their flesh is poor and their fragile bones
break into the flesh during processing. These hens travel thousands of
miles to slaughter, often to Canada, or are disposed of at the farm.
Both transport and slaughter
of laying hens is unregulated by the USDA, that hens suffer during
transport through extreme weather conditions. "Imagine the suffering
of chickens being trucked from, say, an egg farm in Arizona through the
Arizona desert, 'where temperatures even at midnight in the summer are
over 100 degrees outside, double that inside,' to slaughter in California,
at least an eight to nine hour trip" (Prisoned Chickens Poisoned Eggs,
Hens are not electrically stunned prior to slaughtering as, "It is claimed
that electrical stunning would inure a financial cost through carcass damage
and rejection because of easily fractured bones. Others have pointed
out that while it is true that electrical stunning of hens causes broken
bones (on average two per bird), during the remained of the processing
they acquire and additional four broken bones per bird reflecting rough
handling, inhumane housing, and the processing technology itself" (Prisoned
Chickens Poisoned Eggs, p. 120).
There are many other instances of cruelty involved with factory egg
farming. "During the winter of 1988-89, heavy snows hit the Ozark
region of OK, MO, and northern AK crushing hundreds of poultry sheds and
killing an estimated four million birds. Nearly every summer now
we see news account of the deaths of millions of chickens and turkeys across
the country as power failures stop the ventilating fans and birds mother,
trapped in their own body heat" (Animal Factories, p. 33).
Truck accidents and tornadoes also lead to mass death.