What if I told you 195 MILLION animals were starved every year in this civilized country of ours in order to squeeze every last bit of profit from them before they were sent to slaughter, and then I told you it was all perfectly legal? You'd have trouble believing me, wouldn't you? Then what if I added that this cruelty had already been made illegal in the European Union and the United Kingdom? You'd feel shame, just as I do.
Last year, this year and every year 195 million hens in the USA have ALL food removed for up to two weeks, shocking their systems in darkened hen houses, into a forced molt. This manipulates their hormones into laying one more batch of eggs, and not so incidentally saves on feed. Hundreds of thousands die, while the rest are miserable in the extreme.
Already crammed into cramped cages, the stressed birds peck out one another's remaining feathers in a desperate effort to relieve their hunger. But that's not all. Their disrupted hormones lower their immune systems, predisposing them to Salmonella enteritidis, which infests hens, eggs and egg consumers. UAN estimates from the available data that as many as 250,000 humans could be infected with Salmonella every year in this country, most of the infections going unreported. (If you've had this experience, you never forget it. The worst night of my life was spent after eating a tainted restaurant omelet.)
Acute food poisoning isn't the only result of Salmonella. It can also lead to a form of arthritis and even death.
Helping the Egg Producers Cash Flow
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers forced molting inhumane and has asked the egg industry to eliminate it. But the industry is fighting to retain the practice. The "Poultry Science and Technology Guide" (Extension Poultry Science, North Carolina State University) gives one reason why: "To the egg producer, a major advantage of induced molting is the reduction in time that the house is not producing income. Because flocks are replaced less frequently, the laying house will be empty less often, which can help smooth out the egg producer's cash flow." Not surprisingly, animals suffer for the bottom line once again.
Six Million Hens Are Being Forced to Molt As You Read This
We humans ask a lot of hens. Most are not free-range, pecking away in some picturesque farmyard like the ones in a Grandma Moses print or indeed like the ones at my grandmother's farm. Today's hens live out their lives crammed six to a wire cage, never see the sun and never spread their wings, let alone fly. Nothing can change their short, miserable lives except a revolt by chicken and egg consumers, a blanket refusal to eat those products. Since that will not happen tomorrow, we can stop unnecessary forced molting, cruelty worth only pennies a hen to factory farmers, but worth two weeks out of hell for each starving, worn-out hen. We MUST give them that.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1. You can stop eating eggs, or switch to free-range eggs.
2. You can ask the USDA to insist on a ban of forced molting by contacting them at USDA/Animal Care, 4700 River Road, Unit 84, Riverdale, MD 20737.
CAR PARTS FROM CHICKEN FEATHERS? As reported in April's Scientific American magazine, researchers have hatched a new moneymaking scheme to turn 4 billion pounds of chicken feathers into plastic and paper products. Now used for low-grade chicken and cattle feed, a labor-intense and not too profitable venture, the new process will wring more profit from chickens for poultry farmers