Egg laying hens are arguably the most abused animals on today’s factory farms. More often than not, they are confined so tightly to wire cages that they cannot stretch their wings, clean themselves, turn around, or exhibit any of their normal behaviors at all. They are subjected to toxic fumes from the pools of waste that lie beneath them, and they are roughly handled by factory workers.
There have been countless investigations of egg farms conducted by animals rights groups in the United States, and each time we see the same things: dead hens in cages with live ones, birds who have lost their feathers from stress, and egregious abuse of these beautiful birds by farm workers.
Mercy for Animals recently conducted such an investigation of “Quality Eggs of New England” in Turner, Maine, and what they found is both disgusting and unconscionable, and yet, sadly, it’s not all that unusual:
- Rotting carcasses in cages with live hens still laying eggs for human consumption.
- Workers and managers killing birds by grabbing their necks and swinging them around in circles – an attempt to break their necks which often resulted in prolonged, torturous deaths for the hens.
- Supervisors and workers throwing live birds into trash cans, leaving them to be slowly crushed under the weight of other birds’ corpses and unable to access food or water.
- Birds suffering from broken bones, bloody open wounds, and untreated infections.
- Hens confined four to six in tiny wire cages so small they were unable to stretch their wings, move freely or engage in other basic behaviors.
- Birds trapped in the wire of their cages or under the feeding trays without access to food or water, some with body parts, including their faces, pressed against moving conveyor belts.
- Management and workers callously kicking live hens into manure pits where they either drowned in liquid feces or likely died slow and painful deaths from illness, injury or starvation.
And as these atrocities came to light, we got the same canned response from the farm owners and managers:
“Bob LeClerc, the compliance manager for Maine Contract Farming, declined to talk on tape. But in a written statement he says that the company strives to provide good care for its hens and quality eggs for consumers under the scientific standards of the United Egg Producers Certified Program. LeClerc’s statement says violations of those standards or animal welfare standards will not be tolerated and if employees are found to have violated them, their employment will be terminated.”
“Violations of…animal welfare standards will not be tolerated…“, and yet when the MFA worker complained to management about live hens being thrown into trash bins to die slowly, the farm owner’s son, Jay Decoster, told him that he shouldn’t worry about it and that “They all count as dead if they’re in a trash can.’ To me that kind of sounds like not only was it tolerated, but it was the standard. “They all count as dead if they’re in a trash can.” WHO SAYS THAT? A sick, sick person, that’s who. I wonder if he’d say the same thing if it were a bunch of sick puppies in that trash can?
I’m tired of the excuses – the whole “our farm has strict standards, and we care for our animals, and we would never tolerate these kinds of behaviors” – when really you know that they know perfectly well what’s happening in their barns. THEY DO. And people who tell themselves that it’s an isolated incident simply so they can feel okay eating eggs are deluding themselves, plain and simple. This is the standard, not the exception – period.
The last thing I want to point out is that Maine’s law does not specify how many hens may be kept in a cage, nor does it specify how chickens should be humanely euthanized. I am concerned that because of that, these people will never face the consequences of their actions. Then again, I’m no lawyer – hopefully this will at least bring some changes to the law. I’d like to think that no one could possibly argue that throwing live hens away constitutes any kind of humanity, but then again, the state of Ohio deemed that the Wiles Hog Farm was euthanizing pigs “humanely” by HANGING THEM. So I don’t have a whole lot of faith that the Decosters are really going to be punished appropriately.
Am I getting too cynical?
At any rate, kudos to Mercy for Animals for doing this investigation and bringing it to light. I sincerely hope something good comes out of it – whether that means more people give up eggs, or laws change – I’ll take whatever we can get!