FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Came First, the Chicken or the Cage?

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

Thirty five animal advocates stand outside the Hyatt Regency on a balmy Chicago afternoon as United Egg Producers (UEP) executives gather for their annual board meeting. They’ve been protesting conditions for caged laying hens for years.

As one sign showing a dehydrated, featherless hen says, it’s “From Shell to Hell” on the nation’s battery egg operations, 90% of which are represented by UEP; hens are unable to spread their wings, covered with droppings and sometimes stand on top of dead cagemates or perish with their necks or claws caught in cage wires.

“Egg Producers Torture Birds” says another sign showing disfigured and bloodied hens.

“Ban Battery Cages,” reads a third.

After exposes of grisly conditions at the DeCoster Egg Farms in Turner, Maine, Ohio Fresh Eggs in Croton, OH–where chickens drown in manure pits and neighbors carry flyswatters in their own homes–and Ward Egg Ranch in San Diego County, CA where 15,000 live hens were funneled into a wood chipper, UEP developed animal care “guidelines” for member certification in 2000.

But the guidelines were a travesty said animal advocates and just tap dance around institutionalized abuses, banning nothing.

Battery cages were still recommended because “science has shown that additional space may be more stressful as more aggressive tendencies become manifest.”

Debeaking was still allowed though UEP guidelines admit it causes “acute pain, perhaps constant pain and stress,” bleeding, dehydration and other “welfare disadvantages” such as the bird’s inability to eat and drink afterward.

Forced molting–removing food and water to “jump start” a new laying cycle–was still recommended because it “allows the flock a period of rest at the end of a period of egg production” (sic) and “extends the life of the hen.” Only in 2006 did removal or food–starving–stop among UEP certified farms says the UEP.

Even concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide and ammonia can still exceed 50 PPM, but “should not adversely affect bird health,” however it’s defined.

In fact the 2000 guidelines were so meaningless, the Federal Trade Commission on the advice of the Better Business Bureau ruled UEP’s certification logos which said “animal care certified” misleading advertising. Legally they could only read, “United Egg Producers Certified.”

But despite UEP’s toothless guidelines and spin doctoring–welfare reforms take time/the industry can police itself/you can’t have cheap and humane at the same time/it’s not as bad as it looks/it’s in the farmer’s best interests to treat an animal well/blah blah–cage egg operations are on the way out, say animal advocates.

Whole Foods Market, Omni Hotels, Burger King, Ben & Jerry’s and Wolfgang Puck are phasing them out and 150 US university food services have already done so and gone cage free.

City councils in Florida, Maryland, California and Massachusetts have also condemned cage egg operations and the issue is expected to gain inclusion on state ballots in 2008.

Even agribusiness’ own newspaper, Feedstuffs, charges that caged hens, “cannot dust bathe, flap their wings, fly or use a nestbox or perch” this month; that “Osteoporosis is worse in cage systems than cage-free systems due to the lack of exercise, as is cage layer fatigue,” and that 70% to 85% of egg farm hens are euthanized.

No wonder UEP executives aren’t wearing name tags!

Lunch hour is in full swing at the demonstration. Pedestrians pass by, noting the graphic signs of protestors expressionlessly. (Are UEP CEO Gene W. Gregory or vice president Linda Reickard among them?) A few cabbies honk their support and seagulls, crows and even a falcon caw overhead. A solitary policeman chats with a Hyatt security guard chat–no trouble here.

Later, the news will come down that tomorrow UEP is announcing its first ever guidelines for hen welfare in cage-free production systems–to begin taking effect April 1, 2008.

“Forward thinking” is not how animal advocates will term the move.

MARTHA ROSENBERG is staff cartoonist on the Evanston Roundtable. She can be reached at mrosenberg@evmark.org

 

 

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail