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From 23 May 2004 Issue

This Story is For the Birds
By Greg Lawson - ParkStRanger@aol.com

On Monday, May 10th, the Better Business Bureau of the United States issued a ruling to the United Egg Producers, the U.S. egg industry's trade association, which said that "the egg industry should stop advertising its products as humane as long as it continues such practices as clipping hens' beaks and depriving birds of food and water."

The Better Business Bureau recommended that the United Egg Producers either discontinue labeling eggs as "Animal Care Certified," or significantly alter it to stop misleading consumers.

Two years ago, in a public relations move, the U.S. egg industry created the "Animal Care Certified" program, and egg producers began labeling egg cartons with an "Animal Care Certified" logo, fooling consumers into believing the eggs come from humanely treated hens when, in fact, the birds are still overcrowded in barren wire cages.

Among the cruel industry practices cited by the Better Business Bureau were forced molting, which is the intentional withholding of food and water to increase egg production; beak clipping, without anesthesia, to prevent birds from pecking each other; and overcrowding of chickens in battery cages that don't allow them to flap their wings or turn around.

Last year, the Washington DC based group Compassion Over Killing filed petitions with the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging that the "Animal Care Certified" logo on egg cartons is false advertising and should be prohibited.

That is also the essence of the ruling issued by the Better Business Bureau. This ruling was prompted by Compassion Over Killing's campaign and is an important victory for animal advocates and for the birds. Paul Shapiro, Campaigns Director for COK, said that he hoped the ruling would lead the egg industry to follow the lead of European countries like Switzerland and Germany that have or soon will ban chicken cages altogether in their egg industries.

Forced molting is an economic practice based on greed. The reason for starving laying birds is to extend their "economically useful life." During a forced molting, farmers don't have to feed the birds and can feed them cheap, inferior rations before and afterward. Since the 1960s, forced molting has become a dominant practice in the U.S. egg industry.

Hens are forced to produce 10 times the amount of eggs that they would produce naturally. Each hen produces about 300 eggs per year. This is twice as many eggs as a hen produced fifty years ago, and it compares with only 12-20 eggs produced each year by their wild ancestors. This means that each egg represents almost a full day of suffering and confinement for one bird.

Battery hens live in an atmosphere poisoned by their own wastes. Ammonia from the decomposing uric acid in the manure pits beneath their cages causes burned eyes and chronic respiratory disease in millions of hens. The battery cage has created an ugly new disease in laying hens called fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome, in which their livers become enlarged and covered with blood clots.

Calcium deficiency and osteoporosis are rampant among factory farmed chickens. The increased demands for egg production causes chickens to use up their calcium at a greatly increased rate. The loss of calcium results in broken bones, paralysis and death. Thirty-five percent of all mortalities among laying hens are attributable to fragile bones.

Since male chicks born of layers are of a different breed than chickens raised for meat, the males chicks are of no value to the industry and are either tossed live into a grinding machine to become rendered protein for animal feed, or tossed into rubbish bins alive along with everyday trash, there to suffocate as other bodies pile on top of them. Recently it was reported that at two California farms, workers put 30,000 live hens into wood chippers.

There is no room for sentiment in the egg industry, only excuses and PR.

It was estimated that approximately 60 percent of hens nationwide and 90 percent of hens in California were force molted. In 1993 food withdrawal was cited as the primary method of manipulating egg production in the United States. According to the USDA, "At any given time in the United States over six million hens are being systematically starved by the poultry and egg industries."

Of the 10 billion animals slaughtered in the U.S. each year for food, nine billion are chickens. We seem to be a race of bird eaters and eaters of their eggs. Is this what we mean by our claim that we are at the top of the food chain?

Don't be a part of the cruelty that is represented by eggs. Don't be part of the pain and cruelty that comes with each egg. Don't believe the egg industry's false advertising of "Animal Care Certified" or "Free Range." Do you really think they are free? Cruelty-Free means Egg-Free. Go Vegan.

For more information go to www.upc-online.org
United Poultry Concerns [UPC] - www.upc-online.org 

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