You have spent every day of your entire life as a prisoner, locked in a small closet with several other people. Crammed into the small, dark space with other bodies, you can never stretch your legs, turn around or lie down comfortably. Sometimes you can reach the food and water sources, sometimes you cannot. Your physical anguish is surpassed only by your emotional despair. When you become ill, your captor refuses you medical care. And when he no longer finds you useful, he pulls you out of the closet and slits your throat.
This is the life of the battery cage hen, the animal that produces the vast majority of eggs sold by markets and restaurants across the nation. These hens suffer cruelty, perhaps more than any other animal used in food production. As many as eight hens are crammed into a wire cage the size of a filing cabinet drawer for their entire lives, and kept in a dark, windowless shed with tens of thousands of other caged chickens. Each hen has her feathers rubbed off and her feet deformed by the metal bars. She cannot spread her wings or move around. She must have her beak cut off because the severe overcrowding would cause her to peck the other hens in the cage. She is subjected to ‘forced molting,’ where the farmer withholds food and water for days in order to shock her system into producing more eggs. She lives in these unbearable conditions until her productivity declines and she is sent to be slaughtered, by which time her flesh is so bruised and damaged that it can only be used for pot pies and pet food.
Powerful agribusiness interests work hard to make sure the ugly reality of egg production remains well-hidden. They are enabled by the fact that the chicken is scarcely seen as an animal at all. Living in a society with high levels of meat consumption, we are culturally conditioned to see farmed animals as masses of de-individuated flesh rather than as the sentient, intelligent, sociable creatures that they really are. Many of us love our dogs and cats and find dolphins and chimpanzees amazing
Filed Under: Opinion