There’s No Easy Way to Lay This

chicken in battery cageMillions of chickens are used for egg production annually in Australia, and the vast majority of them (more than 11 million) will spend their entire lives crammed together in wire cages without enough room to spread even one wing.

A chicken raised for egg production will spend her entire life in a crowded cage, never seeing the sun, taking a dust bath or sitting on a nest. The frustration and stress of this intensive confinement can cause her to lash out at her cage-mates. But rather than giving hens more space, egg producers instead cut off the ends of the birds’ sensitive beaks in order to prevent them from inflicting too much damage on each other.

The “layer hen”, as the egg industry calls her, will spend an average of 72 weeks in a space roughly the size of an A4 piece of paper. Hens in the top cages drop excrement onto the hens below, and cage-mates often trample and peck each other. Their feet become painfully injured from constantly standing on wire cage floors, and their bones become brittle – and sometimes break – because of the calcium lost as a result of constant egg laying.

Battery cages have been banned in the European Union and in several states in the United States. Yet in Australia, millions of chickens continue to suffer in sheds holding up to 100,000 birds each. If cats or dogs were treated in this way, their owner would be prosecuted for cruelty and neglect. But no federal laws protect chickens or other animals raised and killed for food.

Chickens reared in so-called “free-range” facilities also suffer for egg production. There are minimal laws governing the definition of “free-range” or “barn-laid” eggs, and the codes of practice that do exist are largely voluntary guidelines. Barn-raised or free-range birds may still be crammed into small areas (the egg industry recently attempted to have the free-range standard set at 20,000 birds per hectare), with limited access to suitable perches or nests, and may have the ends of their sensitive beaks seared off.

Regardless of the egg-production system used, the egg industry is also responsible for the slaughter of more than 12 million unwanted male chicks every year who are gassed to death or thrown alive into giant grinders.

Intelligent and social, chickens are arguably the most abused animals on the planet. The only way to ensure that they and other animals do not suffer for our supper (or breakfast or lunch) is to go vegan.

Posted by Claire Fryer