January 13, 2003
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is written in regards to videotaped footage of the Weaver Bros. Egg Farm in Versailles, Ohio.
I am an exotic and small animal veterinarian, and have been in practice since 1995.
The videotape depicts: numerous sanitation atrocities, among them decomposing chicken corpses (and the associated flies and detritus) remaining in the cages still full of live hens, diseased hens houses with what appear to be non-diseased hens, and gross infractions of basic standards of care.
Many hens' feathers appear chewed and mutilated either sustained from cage-mates or self-induced from the stress of unnatural confinement and filth. The unhealthy feathering may also be due to skin parasites.
Numerous hens are shown with extremely swollen eyelids and peri-orbital tissues, as well as what appears to be sinusitis and rhinitis (inflammations of the sinuses and nasal tissues). These conditions often indicate respiratory disease. Many bacterial and viral infections are known in the domestic chicken. These hens may have both viral and bacterial disease. Mixed viral and secondary bacterial infections brought about by the unhygienic living conditions to which the hens are subjected are a strong possibility in this production facility. Not only do the various disease states cause stress to the individual hen, some components of the diseases are likely contagious. These stressors to both the individual hen and the flock will significantly reduce production. As many poultry diseases are brought about by unsanitary conditions and overcrowding, these problems are both avoidable and needless. Not only will cleaner conditions and less crowding help reduce suffering of the individual hens, overall production of the flock will improve. It is known that increased stressors (disease states, overcrowding, poor sanitation, unnatural living conditions) in farm species reduce production.
In some portions of the footage, hens were seen trapped either by their wings, feet, or necks and thereby immobilized. The unconscionable suffering brought about by these situations is clear. This stress of being trapped will also lead to severe reductions in productivity even if/when the hens were released. These hens were clearly unable to access food or water, and left for unknown lengths of time. Simple modification and maintenance of the cages will reduce this kind of occurrence; larger cages with fewer hens would also help to prevent this needless issue contributing to the hens' pain and suffering.
Containers overflowing with hen corpses were also shown in the footage. These rotting birds left in close proximity to the live production hens would clearly increase the level of flies and other insects. These flies would then be exposing not only the live hens to whatever pathogens they had come into contact with on the dead birds, but also the humans working and living nearby.
Finally, a live hen being rescued off of a "dead pile" was shown. The bird was clearly too weak to move and was left for a slow and horrible death. If birds become sick or weak, or have become poor layers, a quick and painless death should be carried out. The intelligence of hens is debatable, but their capacity to feel pain is not. These sort of amoral treatment of our livestock is wholly unacceptable.
It is known that practices depicted in this video are ideal in creating viral and bacterial "superbugs." This exemplifies how emergent diseases originating from poor farming practices could impact the American public.
I think that the consensus of the American public would be overwhelming outrage if they knew they were unknowingly supporting and tacitly perpetuating this inhumane farming practice. Although market forces push husbandry practices toward large-scale confinement farming. I am surprised that this farm continues to be profitable. I feel strongly that the practices of these types of egg farms be exposed. The public must demand that some minimal standard of care be maintained.
Meg J. Baho, DVM