Editor’s note: Buy local, pastured eggs if possible.
The video chronicles everything from the horrible physical and psychological abuse inflicted on egg-laying hens and “useless” male chicks, the environmental impacts of egg-producing factory farms, and the effects of factory farmed egg production on human health.
Janus also exposes the labels “cage free” and “free range” as toothless whitewashing that can still be applied to hens raised in horrific, factory-farmed conditions.
Used up and tossed into a woodchipper
The video opens by highlighting the physiological stress that egg-laying hens endure by necessity, even on supposedly humane farms. Janus notes that if left to their own devices, hens would lay only about 12 to 13 eggs in the course of their lifetime, most of those resulting in a live birth. Yet in order to turn hens into food producers, egg farmers remove their eggs each day, causing physiological changes that spur the hen to lay 300 to 350 eggs per year. But egg production is a highly intensive process–as is the laying itself, which can take up to 26 hours, comparable to human childbirth.
Common physical repercussions of a lifetime of constant egg-laying include nutrient deficiencies, osteoporosis, beak and bone deformity, fatty liver disease, and ovarian cancer. Farmers also typically cut or burn off hens’ beaks to keep them from trying to replenish nutrients by eating their own eggs.
Because a hen’s egg production tends to drop after eight to 12 months of such an intensive schedule, it has become standard industry practice to “force molt” them — that is, shock their bodies into producing more eggs by starving them or feeding them nutrient-deficient filler, depriving them of water and keeping them in the dark.
A hen’s natural lifespan is 10-20 years, but most egg-laying hens are slaughtered at a year and a half, when their bodies start to give out. Because poultry are exempted from the Humane Slaughter Act, common methods of killing “spent” hens and “useless” male chicks include tossing them into woodchippers alive or suffocating them in garbage bags. They are typically turned into pellets and fed back to other hens, cows or pigs.
On factory farms, the conditions faced by hens are even worse. Unfortunately, labels such as “free range” or “cage free” don’t mean the chickens were not factory farmed. “Cage free” simply means that birds are not confined in cages, but tens of thousands can still be crammed into a single shed with no access to the outdoors. “Free range” simply means some outdoor access must be provided, for as little as a few minutes a day. This can consist of a single small opening in a shed packed with 20,000 chickens.
Breeding bird flu
It’s not just chickens that suffer from the egg industry’s practices. Producing eggs on such a massive scale is an incredible waste of resources. It takes 200 liters (50 gallons) of water to produce just a single egg.
When hundreds of thousands of chickens are crammed together, they also produce enormous amounts of waste. Indeed, feces from poultry operations is a major source of pollution to clean water supplies. It is also a major vector for the spread of foodborne illness, including salmonella.
In fact, chicken meat and eggs are the top two causes of salmonella poisoning.
The effects on human health go beyond simple contamination, however. It is now widely accepted that factory farming of poultry is a major incubator for more virulent and dangerous forms of the influenza virus, including the highly lethal form known as “bird flu.” As far back as 2005, the United Nations warned that the crowded, unsanitary conditions of factory farming “provide ideal conditions for the [influenza] virus to spread and mutate into a more dangerous form.” Around the same time, the American Public Health Organization called for a moratorium on factory farms, condemning them as breeding grounds for disease.
Sources for this article include:
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