Cage-Free? Not Free Enough
Written by Angel Flinn
Created Wednesday, 01 August 2012
In recent years, the campaign to replace battery-farmed eggs with a cage-free, ‘guilt-free’ version has gained tremendous popularity. For those who are aware of the suffering of hens in the egg industry, the ‘cage-free’ movement appears on the surface to offer a win-win situation: improved welfare standards for hens… and eggs can remain on the menu, even for concerned consumers.
In addition to the ‘free-range’ label that we’re all familiar with by now, new labeling schemes have been developed over the years to offer assurance that the products in question have been obtained from animals living in humane conditions.
But do these labels really indicate an improvement in ethical standards, or are they simply a way for the animal industry to regain consumer confidence in their products?
Partly as a result of the eagerness of animal welfare advocates to promote supposedly ‘humane’ animal products, many people have been deceived into believing that these labels indicate vastly improved conditions for animals. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that these labels are part of a carefully-planned PR strategy to whitewash animal cruelty, and to stem the tide of increasing public opposition to the injustice inherent in all animal products.
In numerous investigations, labels that declare animal products to be animal-friendly have been shown to be nothing but a farce. The following video (which is only a portion of the footage that was released) shows a glimpse into the reality of animal concentration camps that are hidden behind labels offering promises of happy animals thriving in bucolic barnyard scenes.
As one investigation website explains:
“The reality? Millions of young hens standing shoulder to shoulder in huge enclosed warehouses, forced to dwell day and night in their own waste, enduring air so foul that workers sometimes wear gas masks to prevent permanent damage to their lungs. Just like their battery-caged sisters, ‘cage-free’ hens are brutally debeaked, force molted (starved for [up to 14] days to restart an egg laying cycle), and, of course, slaughtered when they are no longer of use. Or, as one investigator discovered, if no buyer can be found for their ravaged bodies, they might just be packed into steel drums and gassed, the piles of their lifeless remains sent to a landfill or used as compost.”
Not only are most of these hens killed at the same slaughterhouses as battery hens, but what many people are also not aware of is that ‘cage-free’ and ‘free-range’ hens are generally purchased from the same hatcheries. Half of the chicks born in these hatcheries, being male, and therefore useless to the industry, are considered a waste product of the layer-hen business. These male (and some female) chicks are killed in unimaginably cruel ways, including being ground up alive or suffocated.
In addition, debeaking (an extremely painful procedure routinely performed without anesthetic), is permitted under regulations that cover all of the following egg classifications:
American Humane Certified, Certified Humane Raised and Handled, USDA Certified Organic, United Egg Producers Certified, ‘Pasture Raised’, ‘Vegetarian-Fed’, ‘Cage-Free’, ‘Free-Range’, ‘Free-Roaming’, and ‘Naturally-Nested’.
As long as the increasing human population continues to demand animal products, eggs, just like dairy and meat, no matter how they are labeled, will be obtained from animals crowded together in intensive confinement and subjected to gross welfare and rights violations, including horrific mutilation and mass slaughter.
What about small-scale ‘backyard’ farming situations? As explained by Christine Wells in the article What’s Wrong with Backyard Eggs?:
“As we look more closely at the reality of the backyard chicken trend, it becomes increasingly clear that it is the same commodification of animals, packaged in niche marketing to appeal to the modern ‘conscious consumer’.”
Thankfully, there are now plenty of truly cruelty-free alternatives. Whether you use eggs for omelets or scrambles, pancakes or cakes and pastries, replacing eggs is easier than ever before. From fresh tofu omelets and eggless salad to the brand-new retail product called ‘The Vegg‘, there’s an egg-free version available.
Vegan French Toast anyone?
Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World – a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan , the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition.
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