This is a Win?

Yesterday California became the state with the highest welfare standards for farmed animals. Voters passed a law in 2008 requiring that chickens raised for eggs, calves, and pigs must be allowed enough room to lie down, stand up, and turn around. Two years later the governor signed a bill requiring that eggs imported from other states must follow the same guidelines. And so it’s the law’s impact on chickens that has received the most press.

Egg producers spent the past six years simultaneously implementing the necessary changes and filing several lawsuits to overturn the law. And now that it’s in effect it’s high-fives all around for the win for the animals.

cage-free hens
Does this look like an improved existence? (Photo: Sally Ryan for The New York Times)

But what kind of a win is it? A horrific existence is still horrific despite experiencing it in more space. And while the attention has been on egg producers moving to “cage-free” methods, there has been no mention of other common practices:




  • What happens to the process of debeaking? The stress of being tightly confined drives birds mad and compels them to peck each other. A hot blade is used to sear off a portion of their sensitive beaks (warning: graphic video) under the guise of being for the protection of the birds. Will the egg producers stop this practice as unnecessary if the hens are provided more space?
  • The male chicks will still be killed. Shortly after hatching the chicks are separated by gender. Male chicks have no use in egg production and are quickly disposed of through gassing, electrocution, or being thrown into a giant shredder (warning: graphic video.) Will the egg producers stop the practice of killing half the chickens?
  • Lives will still be cut-short. Chickens produce dozens more eggs than they would on their own and are spent after just a couple of years. Will the egg producers stop the practice of slaughtering young, exhausted birds?

At Catskill Animal Sanctuary we see these birds for the amazing individuals they are. They’re full of personality and many enjoy cuddling as much as dogs or cats do. In fact, did you know it’s possible to put a chicken into a deep sleep by giving her a neck massage? Or that they stay clean by taking an enjoyable dust bath?[youtube width=”500″ height=”325″][/youtube]

That was her first dust bath after being rescued from a factory farm. The first time she could indulge her natural instincts. We can’t in good conscience look her in the eye while patting ourselves on the back for winning her sisters some more wing room. We understand the argument that incremental changes help the birds living today under those horrific conditions. But there isn’t a doubt that the egg producers spent the last six years figuring out how to make “cage-free” as profitable as possible. They would have likely made the transition themselves because they know consumers will pay more for the illusion of humane treatment.

Animal advocates have spent years of time and money for this “win.” And yet it does nothing to save their lives. You can make the greatest difference for chickens by going vegan today. It has never been easier in terms of the food available or the community support. Eliminating demand for the flesh, milk, and eggs of other beings is the only strategy that will actually save lives. You are the chickens’ best hope for a real win.



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One reply on “This is a Win?”

  1. I have a friend that inherited a pet chicken. She lives in the house with 3 dogs and a cat. She is a very lucky bird and lives a pampered life.

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