This is what's wrong with supporting "humane" cage-free egg production.
No Such Thing as Humane Cage-Free Eggs
No Such Thing as Humane Cage-Free Eggs (Still)
by Stephanie Ernst · January 16, 2009
Today TreeHugger has up a post praising cage-free eggs and the fact that many of them now carry the "American Humane Certified(TM) label, showing that they're from producers that practice humane treatment of their animals." (This post comes as a result of a press release from the certifying organization.)
Sigh. Here we go again. (TreeHugger, sometimes I do love you, but sometimes I do not; this week, apparently, it's a mix--sorry.)
Let's revisit a post from a couple weeks ago about how "humane" such humane standards really are: "Proving Humane Certifications Meaningless." I wrote that post after this same certification group bestowed its prized label on a veal operation--and an enormous, crate-using veal operation at that. I suggest reading or scanning that post and then coming back here.
And now let's talk specifically about the eggs. First, we have to remember again what "cage-free" in general actually means. It does not mean birds running around outside or dust-bathing or playing or living a natural life. In most cases, it means birds crammed into dark sheds their whole lives, in conditions not much better than battery cage operations.
And what are the truths about both cage-free and free-range? Painful, mutilating, long-impacting debeaking? Still done. Mass, cruel killing of all male chicks--250 million per year in the United States alone--at the hatcheries where egg-laying hens come from? Still done. Violent, frightening, painful slaughter when the hens stop laying enough eggs to be profitable? Still done.
Someone please tell me what's "certified humane" about any of that.
It should also be noted that some of the companies whose cage-free eggs are listed as "humane" by this certification program are the same companies that have been caught committing the worst abuses against hens in their caged operations. And we're seriously to believe that the birds get dramatically better treatment in such companies' other facilities, just because they're crammed into sheds rather than cages?
In my lacto-ovo vegetarian days, I bought and ate free-range and cage-free eggs. I ate a lot of them. I honestly believed that my purchases and my diet were not causing any harm, and I felt good about my choices, so I don't judge anyone for holding that same belief and making that same choice before he or she knows the realities; you can't be blamed when you simply don't know. But once we do know, we have to recognize that if our concern is more for the animals than just for what makes us feel better, the compassionate, humane choice is to stop buying and consuming eggs, not just to pay more for a product that still involves such obvious and serious cruelties.
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