Some animal rights
organizations have made tremendous strides in educating the
public about what exactly occurs in battery hen operations.
They have exposed the ugly truth, such as tens of thousands of
hens crowded into long, poorly ventilated, completely dark
sheds, fully automated feeding and egg collecting systems,
filth, death and suffering. The recognition of how horrible
the short lives of “battery hens” are has led many people to
stop contributing to this atrocity by simply not buying those
eggs. Unfortunately, many other people have looked to so
called "Cage-Free/Free-Range" eggs as an acceptable and humane
Sadly the public
is led to believe that "Cage-Free" hens live a happy, natural
life. This is simply not so!
hens come from the same hatcheries that battery hens come
from, all of their male brothers are killed by suffocation or
being ground up alive, the girls themselves endure the same
bodily manipulations and mutilations, and they
ALL ultimately end up at the same
slaughterhouses when their "production" declines.
I am often asked "Don't
you think it is still better that people buy 'Cage-Free' eggs
rather than battery produced eggs if they are going to buy
eggs anyway?" I feel the person actually wants to believe that
their consumer dollar is not paying for someone else to commit
animal abuse, when in fact it is – no matter what production
means were used.
It is like asking if I
think strangulation is better than suffocation. My answer is:
Neither is an acceptable option. There is simply NO
way to humanely produce eggs for human consumption.
First, I would not want
anyone to buy "Cage-Free" eggs if they are doing so because
they have compassion for the animals and convince themselves
that they have made a humane choice.
One of the most
destructive things we can do for the animals is to lie to
ourselves, or allow ourselves to be fooled an misinformed into
believing that animal agriculture of ANY kind
Second, the so called
"Cage-Free" or "Free-Range" eggs are produced with an
exorbitant profit margin in comparison to battery produced
eggs. Therefore, well meaning consumers will be unwittingly
padding the already thick pockets of egg producers,
hatcheries, and poultry slaughterhouses, which will only allow
them to increase the size of their operations and advertising
budgets, which will in turn lead to even more suffering.
Third, the question
forgets the most obvious choice: Don't buy eggs at
all. Once people allow themselves to entertain the
possibility of living egg-free, it's quite empowering. They
suddenly realize that Yes! It can be done. Millions of people
before them have cut eggs and products made with eggs out of
their lives and are doing just fine! Not only vegans, but
millions of people from other cultures don't eat eggs.
Why "Cage-Free "or
"Free-Range" Eggs Are NOT a Humane Alternative – In a Nutshell
No matter where the
egg production facility is, or what the 'visible to the public
'conditions are, the egg-laying hens are obtained from the
same hatcheries that kill the baby rooster chicks at only one
day old. If the "free-range" farm hatches its own chicks, two
important questions still remain.
1. What happens to ALL of
the male chicks – not just few token roosters – ALL of
2. What happens to the
hens when they are no longer laying enough eggs for this
facility to be profitable?
If the spent hens and ALL
of the roosters were allowed to live out their lives until
they died a natural death – chickens can live well over a
decade – then that farm would soon have thousands of "spent"
hens and roosters to care for. Obviously, the lifelong care of
all of those birds, at all stages of a natural life span,
would cut severely into any profits made by selling the eggs
of younger hens.
So what happens to ALL of the boys?
And what happens to ALL of the spent hens?
Hens are generally
considered spent by egg-laying facilities at one to two years
– meaning, the farm then has to provide predator-proof
shelter, food, veterinary care, etc. for that same hen, for
another decade. The roosters will require dozens of separate
yards, predator-proof shelters, food, vet care, etc. for their
In order to make a
profit, the numbers simply don't add up
unless the inevitable killing of roosters and
spent hens is occurring.
A Rare Glimpse Inside a Hatchery
"I was chosen for a
special assignment, in the hatchery. The rooms were silent but
for the faint hum of machines, the air hot and humid, so that
when we levered out the huge metal trays of newly hatched
chicks from the oven-like incubators, the yellow fluff balls
chirruped cheerfully. A sea of yellow beings jostled among
The facility manager had
shown me a hatch to swivel open and finish the job. Below it
were dumpsters, several already full to the brim. Masses of
broken eggshells were heaped in there, among them quite a
number of chirruping chicks, very much alive. This was the
trash someone would dispose of later. How, I had not been
told. Meanwhile, the new crop of broken shells was to be
tossed down there, along with the unwanted male chicks and any
females I judged too small or weak to meet the standards of
I carried my first tray
to the opening. Dozens of living chicks slid into the void.
The chicks I'd pitched to the bottom of the dumpster would be
crushed or asphyxiated as others were thrown on top of them. I
went back to the hatchery chamber, eyes searching for a human
face who could reassure me. What I'd done just now was "what
was done", wasn't it? It was OK, wasn't it? But there was no
A second tray from which
I'd extracted the females was on the selection table, ready
for disposal. I yanked off my plastic gloves and reached for
one of the male chicks and lifted him up in my bare hand. It
seemed the right thing to be merciful. Peasants wring
chickens' necks, don't they? I edged my fingers into a tight
hold round his neck, just below the little bright-eyed face
peering back at me. Then I realised I had to get out of there.
What kind of place was this? I stood and wept."
Victor Schonfeld, director of The
At the hatchery,
the male chicks
(roosters) are separated from the females,
and discarded as
images, courtesy of Farm Sanctuary and Soylent