UC Irvine and animal cruelty should not go together. However, every day UCI Dining Services offers eggs produced by animals subjected to cruelty. We may not realize it, but every time we order scrambled eggs or a mushroom omelet in a dining hall or campus eatery, we are essentially ordering cruelty.
UCI Dining Services buys about one million eggs a year from facilities that confine hens to ‘battery cages.’ The living space of each hen is less than the size of a single sheet of paper. Five to 10 hens are crammed into each cage so tightly that they cannot stretch their wings or walk. Indeed, they can scarcely move for the entirety of their adult lives.
Many hens die because they are injured or cannot reach food and water sources. Some try to crawl under other hens to lay their eggs. No one who has seen footage of battery cages can forget the suffering of these hens.
We believe that animals should be treated with compassion and that corporate greed is no excuse for torturing them. In the past few years, a nationwide movement has arisen to end battery-cage egg production and support more humane alternatives.
Responding to student requests, more than 300 colleges and universities have switched entirely or partially to cage-free eggs. The list of schools includes UC Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, University of Wisconsin, Tufts, Georgetown and many other prominent institutions. Corporations like Ben & Jerry’s, Wolfgang Puck, Omni Hotels and Burger King have also wholly or partly made the switch.
Retailers like Whole Foods and Wild Oats no longer sell eggs produced by battery-caged hens. Compass Group, the world’s largest food service provider, has shifted significantly toward cage-free eggs.
Numerous city councils, including several in California, have passed resolutions condemning battery cages. The European Union voted to end the use of battery cages by 2012. Environmental groups like the National Environmental Trust, Sierra Club and California Student Sustainability Coalition have urged consumers to make the switch because cage-free egg production is more sustainable.
By national consensus, we are reaching the conclusion that battery cages should not be used. So why does UCI Dining Services continue to serve us eggs obtained through cruelty?
Nearly two years ago, students and faculty approached Jack McManus, Director of Dining Services, to explain battery-cage conditions and ask UCI to switch to exclusively cage-free eggs. Last spring, after waiting a year for McManus’s reply, they began the UCI Cage-Free Egg Initiative. In addition to educating the campus about the issue and conducting demonstrations in front of Aldrich Hall, we succeeded in achieving the following:
1. We submitted the signatures of over 3,500 UCI undergraduates to Manuel Gomez, vice chancellor of student affairs, asking UCI Dining Services to switch to cage-free eggs.
2. Irvine Mayor Beth Krom wrote a letter in support of the initiative.
3. The Associated Graduate Students of UCI passed Resolution 7-29 asking UCI Dining Services to switch to cage-free eggs.
4. The New University wrote an editorial entitled ‘UCI Should Implement Cage-Free Eggs.’
5. Actor Alicia Silverstone wrote a New University commentary supporting the initiative.
However, nearly two years after this issue was first brought to its attention, UCI Dining Services continues to ignore the voices of the thousands of students who ask for change. It continues to serve cruelty.
Declining to support animal cruelty is one small step we can all make toward a better university and a better world. UCI and cruelty do not go together.
Jessica Fuentes is a third-year history major. Elizabeth McDuffee is a second-year humanities major. Claire Jean Kim is an associate professor in political science and Asian-American studies. Kim can be reached at email@example.com.