Poultry and Eggs: Industries That Abuse Chickens
Turning to the prolonged suffering and murder of birds offers the same dilemmas as the system that is abandoned when one swears off red meat.
Many people today have given up the consumption of red meat. This is a great step in a very positive direction for many reasons. Whether based on ethics, environmental impact, or personal health eliminating one’s consumption of slaughtered cows is a choice that makes great sense. However, falling back on the consumption of white meats and eggs as a more sound and responsible choice makes no sense at all. Turning to the prolonged suffering and murder of birds offers the same dilemmas as the system that is abandoned when one swears off red meat.
Battery farms used in egg production and broiler houses used for meat birds parallel beef production in many ways. Here are a few:
- The consumption of flesh that contains dense protein, a lack of fiber, nil vitamin and mineral content, high saturated fats and cholesterol (such as meat and dairy foods) adds up to an effective recipe for poor health.
- Poultry farms provide the same perfect environment for the birthing of new strains of bacteria and viruses similar to what we have seen on cattle farms. Pandemic flu viruses are more and more becoming a regular offering of the poultry industry.
- The factory farming of birds boasts the same extensive negative environmental impacts in relation to air pollution and groundwater contamination.
The birds unfortunate enough to be born into factory farming suffer through the same abhorrent living conditions as the cattle in beef production and the end result is the same; murder.
The Life of an Egg-laying Hen
The life of an egg-laying hen begins in the sterile and loveless steel drawer of a huge incubator. On an egg laying facility (battery farm) the male chicks are deemed worthless and weeded out. Seeing as they have no value to an egg producing facility they are treated with the same disregard as the garbage. The luckiest of the adorable fuzzy little yellow males are tossed into garbage bins by the thousands and left to suffocate or to be crushed to death. Those who are not simply thrown away face grinding machines. A few even survive these brutal machines to end up in piles of ground up chicks where they slowly die from fatal injuries. The ground up male chicks are then added to the feed for the hens.
The female chicks are sent off to the debeaking machines. Here is where the newborns are held by their necks and shoved face first into a machine as a hot blade slices through and removes most of the hen’s beak. The beaks are removed because the living conditions that these unfortunate hens will face will be so traumatizing and so many of them will be in such a state of psychological distress that they might peck themselves or others to death. The beak of a bird contains a very sensitive layer of tissue that makes it a gentle and proficient tool used for eating, preening, and performing tasks such as nest building. It is a very safe assumption that the beak slicing process is extremely painful and may lead to lifelong, chronic pain.
Upon reaching maturity the hens are put into battery houses. A battery house consists of multiple rows of cages that are stacked about four or five high. An average battery cage is sized at about 18 x 20 inches. It is not uncommon for as many as 11 hens to be crammed into one of these cages. Conditions in the rows of battery cages challenge the definition of torture and are beyond vile.
- Battery cages are stacked several high. This means that the hens in the cages other than the top row spend their entire lives being shit and pissed on from above.
- People who have visited battery farms say that the stench is unbearable. The foul smell is mostly from the concentration of urine from thousands of hens. The quantity of urine within the hen houses leads to a buildup of ammonia in the air that is potent enough to physically and painfully burn the eyes of the hens.
- Due to the abundance of airborne bacteria and viruses within a battery farm most of the hens’ lives depend on the use of antibiotics. Sinus, eye, and skin infections are all too common. The antibiotics don’t really keep the hens in good health but they do keep them just healthy enough to lay eggs and to continue living on in pain and suffering. (By the way, the antibiotics also end up in the food of egg and flesh eaters and in the water supply of everyone.)
- The wire cages pose a great threat in such overcrowded living conditions. The hens suffer crippling deformities in their feet from standing on wire all day and sleeping doesn’t offer much relief. Lying down on the wire causes bare spots and painful blistered skin. Even eating can be a struggle. In order to reach the feeding trough the hens have to reach through the bottom bars of the cage. The wire commonly removes feathers and rubs blisters onto their throats. It is also very common for a hen to get her head or wing stuck in one of the wires of the cage and be destined to remain stuck until starvation brings her death.
- The food offered to hens can even be a source of pain and suffering. The food is generally in a very finely ground powder. The small particulate form of the food is commonly known to cause throat blisters. The food also has a large amount of mold inhibitors added to it. The mold inhibitors are known to cause mouth ulcers in the hens.
- With the mass number of birds in the cages many of them die unnoticed. The surviving birds are forced to live next to the decaying bodies of family members and friends on a regular basis.
- The hens must periodically suffer through what is called a forced molting. During molting a hen will cease to lay eggs. Forced molting is a tactic used by battery farms to control the availability of eggs in the marketplace in order to maintain premium prices. To temporarily cease egg production the hens are starved for as long as 14 days were they could lose up to 30% of their body weight. The starving birds are also subjected to water deprivation, harsh light, and extended periods of complete darkness.
The hens that struggle through the two years or so of their productive egg laying cycles on a battery farm get to meet the workers who are known as “stuffers”. Stuffers are the hired hands who are in charge of cramming the hens into transport cages so that they can be trucked to the slaughterhouses. Stuffers are rewarded for speed and efficiency. Caution and care for the hens are not concerns. As the stuffers do their work many of the hens whom are already in very poor health suffer devastating broken bones, bruising, cuts, and internal hemorrhaging. The brisk transfer of hens from battery cages to transport cages became known to injure so many of them that the industry adapted and began to offer consumers the mangled carcasses in the form of chunks, shreds, and liquid.
The Birds Raised for Meat
For the birds who were born to be labeled as meat, life begins in a steel drawer just as the egg layers’. These chicks triumphantly crack out of their shells into the heartbreakingly dim life of that of a bird in a broiler house. The broiler house birds are bred to grow abnormally fast. They reach “market weight” at seven weeks old and are then sent off to be slaughtered. Their brief lives are spent on the urine and feces smeared floor of the boiler house. They generally have less than one square foot of space to themselves. Just like the egg laying hens they never see sunlight or breathe fresh air until the day comes when they are thrown onto a truck and sped down the highway en route to a painful demise.
I met a turkey named Hilary once. She was born in one of those steel drawers. She had endured beak slicing and the crippling effects of standing on the bottom of a wire cage all day. She was fortunate enough to have been rescued from a factory farm. She was able to happily live out the rest of her life at a farm animal sanctuary. She had the chance to show many people that she was an individual.
With only remnants of a beak and deformed arthritic feet she walked right up to me to summon a neck rub. I obliged and she stole my heart. As I rubbed her neck she would drift off to sleep. I would eventually walk away only to have her open her eyes, burst into the cutest turkey gobble you have ever heard, and run full speed to nestle up against my side again. I gave up on the task at hand and spent some time giving her a good neck rub. It was the least I could do. She deserved it after what she had endured.
Hilary was an individual and so are all of the other birds that live inside of the battery farms and broiler houses. She suffered. They do too. She enjoyed freedom. They would too.
Eggs are not just the ingredients for a breakfast recipe. They are unfertilized fetuses that are taken away from mothers who suffer immensely. Neatly plastic wrapped legs, breasts, and holiday torsos are not slabs of protein that magically appeared for you to consume. They are body parts. Body parts that were violently torn from the bodies of individuals that suffered immensely.
Abandon the consumption of poultry meat and eggs.
Choose compassion. Choose vegan.
Written by VeganTHIS