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The move toward cage-free eggs and Wegmans cruelty case coverage
DawnWatch: USA Today on the move towards cage free eggs 4/11/06
(Note: ABC's Primetime was expected to air a segment on the Wegmans cruelty case, but it has been put off, since apparently Tom Cruise has given the show an exclusive interview and we can hardly expect millions of hideously suffering animals to compete with the latest from Tom Cruise! I will keep you posted on the Wegmans Primetime segment. Or keep an eye on http://www.WegmansCruelty.com)
The Tuesday, April 11, edition of the most widely distributed newspaper in the US, USA Today, has an article headed, "Cage-free hens pushed to rule roost." (Pg 7D)
It tells us,
"A wave of colleges and universities, along with big-name employers such as America Online, food-service purveyors, restaurants and even high schools, have either eliminated or reduced their use of eggs from caged hens.
"Egged on by a yearlong campaign by the Humane Society of the United States, colleges and universities that have instituted the policy include Yale, Tufts, Dartmouth, Vassar and the University of Wisconsin. Another 80 schools made the switch when food service company Bon Appétit Management, which supplies their dining halls, went cage-free last October.
"'The quality of life of a cage-free hen is so much better than the quality of life of a battery-cage hen that this campaign is meant to move the industry in that direction,' says Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society.
"In conventional egg production, hens live in what are called battery cages In this case, the word 'battery' means 'array,' as in a stack of cages that can be as much as two stories high.
"There are about six hens to a cage, and each hen get up to 67 square inches of floor space, about 3/4 of a sheet of notebook paper, says Mitch Head of the United Egg Producers."
Unfortunately the article includes suggestions from industry group representatives that hens don't really want to go outside and that "Conveyer belts carry away manure twice a day, and fans keep the air fresh."
Footage from within battery cage sheds, however (such as available on wegmanscruelty.com) shows hens in the lower cages being covered in excrement from above. And activists who have been in the sheds say the ammonia fumes are so overwhelming that their eyes water and it is hard to breathe.
About the cage-free campaign, we read in the USA Today piece:
"An underlying goal of the campaign against eggs from caged hens is to create a flock of graduates who will automatically reach for eggs from cage-free or free-range hens. These eggs are more expensive than eggs from caged hens.
"Cage-free hens have the run of an indoor space."
That line exemplifies some problems with the article. Though the move towards consumer demand for cage-free eggs is a move in the right direction, which should be encouraged, suggestions that cage-free eggs are cruelty free should be avoided. In a more balanced 2004 article in the Christian Science Monitor, headed "'Cage-free' eggs: not all they're cracked up to be?" we read, "Eggs labeled 'cage free' often come from hens packed side by side in massive sheds, Shapiro says. Their access to the outdoors may be only through a tiny opening."
You'll find that article on line at http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1027/p15s01-lifo.html?s=rel
Plus, egg-laying hens are exempt from federal humane slaughter laws and can be disposed of by the cheapest, least humane methods, at the ends of their lives, no matter in what conditions they spend those brief lives. (In 2003 a California rancher fed 30,000 live hens into a woodchipper but was not prosecuted for animal cruelty -- see http://www.dawnwatch.com/oped-december1-2003.htm)
Though, as Shapiro now emphasizes, cage free is better than battery caged, those doing beautifully on a plant based diet without eggs should take this opportunity to sing the praises, in America's largest paper, of such a diet, and to discuss the cruelty of factory farming .You'll find the complete USA Today article on line at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-04-10-eggs-cage_x.htm
USA Today takes letters at http://asp.usatoday.com/marketing/feedback/feedback-online.aspx?type=18 or http://tinyurl.com/cee7y. Please write.
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. If you forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts, please do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this tag line.)