Many people don’t realize that no federal laws protect animals during their lives at factory farms. The law that protects cows and pigs at the slaughterhouse—the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act—does not extend to birds, leaving chickens with virtually no protection from abuse.
Why Care About Chickens?
Chickens are incredible individuals with unique personalities and complex relationships. They can empathize with peers in danger and use their experiences to inform decision-making. These birds are also very intelligent and able to understand that recently hidden objects still exist—this is beyond the capability of a two-year-old child! They can recognize dozens of individuals, not only other chickens but also people.
Hens make excellent mothers and begin communicating with their chicks before they even hatch. When her babies are still inside their shells, a mother hen clucks softly to them, and they chirp back. Chickens even pass down knowledge from generation to generation!
What Happens to Babies?
Chicks in the egg industry often hatch in packed “hatching baskets.” They will never meet their mothers. After hatching, these tiny, fluffy babies are swiftly separated by gender. Because male chicks do not lay eggs or grow quickly enough to be raised profitably for meat, they are often killed within hours of hatching. Some are gassed or stuffed in plastic bags to suffocate, while others are ground up alive in giant machines called macerators.
As babies, female chicks have the tips of their beaks seared off with a hot blade. This is an extremely painful procedure.
What Happens to Hens?
Most hens spend nearly their entire short lives in windowless sheds. The sheds can be as long as a football field, hold hundreds of thousands of birds, and are especially susceptible to barn fires. Earlier this year at an egg farm in Minnesota, around 200,000 panicked hens remained trapped in tiny cages as they were engulfed by flames. Yet according to a farm spokesperson, “no one was injured.”
The egg industry treats these animals as egg-producing machines instead of living, feeling beings. Inside the sheds, chickens are crammed into tight, filthy cages with other birds. They can barely take a step and can’t even spread their wings. Hens are bred to produce way more eggs than is natural, which wreaks havoc on their bodies. Their bones become brittle from calcium depletion—some birds have so little calcium in their bodies that they lay eggs without shells.
Mercy For Animals hidden cameras have documented birds left untreated with broken bones or open wounds. While hens can naturally live an average of 10 to 12 years, at modern farms the birds who survive their awful conditions are killed when their egg production declines, around their second birthday.
What Happens to the Environment?
Massive egg farms have been linked to the spread of algae blooms in waterways around the globe. Algae blooms are commonly caused by farm runoff, mainly manure and fertilizer. Nitrogen and phosphorus in this runoff promote the growth of algae blooms, which create oxygen-deprived zones that cause aquatic animals to flee or die.
In 2001, the city of Tulsa sued massive egg producer Cargill and five others for leaking chicken manure into lakes Eucha and Spavinaw. The companies tried to pin the pollution on their contract farmers. In the end, they settled out of court, agreeing to pay $7.5 million without admitting liability.
What Can We Do?
You can fight back by refusing to support this horrible industry. Every time you choose a delicious vegan egg instead of a chicken egg, you’re taking a stand against the cruel and unsustainable animal agriculture industry. Check out nine of the best vegan egg products on the market today, and explore ChooseVeg.com for more plant-based tips and tricks.