Chicken and Eggs
“I only eat chicken and eggs”. For years before I went vegan I said this to people, as if a chicken was an inferior animal. Chickens are undoubtedly the most mistreated animal on the planet. Farm animals in general have very few rights, but even the most basic rights afforded to them in the United States often do not apply to chickens. The Humane Slaughter Act, The Animal Welfare Act and the Twenty-Eight Hour Law all exclude chickens. In fact there are no laws that regulate the breeding, sale, rearing, transport or slaughter of chickens.
The Humane Slaughter Act was designed to minimize the suffering of animals during slaughter at USDA inspected slaughter plants, requiring that they are stunned or sedated before being killed to minimize their pain. The Animal Welfare Act is the only Federal Law that regulates treatment of animals with minimum standards of care. The Twenty-Eight Hour Law requires that animals be provided water, food and rest after twenty eight hours during transport to slaughter. All of these laws exclude chickens from their protections.
Each year approximately 9.5 billion chickens are killed in the US for their meat. Almost all meat chickens, called “broilers”, are raised on factory farms, where they are housed in large sheds of 20,000 chickens or more. The chickens live crammed together on the shed floor in their own waste where the high ammonia levels irritate and burn their eyes, throats and skin. Factory-farmed broilers grow unnaturally fast and disproportionately large due to genetic modification, excessive feeding, hormones and inadequate exercise. Their breasts grow abnormally large while their skeletons and other organs lag behind. Most have trouble breathing while many others suffer heart failure, leg weakness and chronic pain. Many cannot support their own weight and their legs break under the weight of their bodies.
Hens used for egg production and raised for meat are horrifically abused their entire lives. Because male chickens (roosters) born in egg production hatcheries don’t lay eggs and are not used in the meat industry (usually genetically modified ‘broiler’ chickens are used for chicken meat), they are killed the day they are born. Within hours of their birth, they are ground up, electrocuted, or gassed to death. Over 250 million male chicks are killed in the United States every year. The vast majority of female chicks, on the other hand, spend their entire lives in tiny wire ‘battery’ cages, never once stepping outside or feeling the earth beneath their feet. Battery cages commonly hold 5–10 chickens, with each hen given minimal space in the encaged area to live her entire life. Because the lack of stimulation and cramped conditions of the cages create tension and stress between the hens, they are debeaked at a young age before entering the cage. A portion of their beaks is seared off with a burning hot blade so they will not injure the other hens or themselves. The hens live their entire lives standing on a wire floor and rubbing against the cage, causing severe feather loss and debilitating bruises and abrasions. Because the cages are organized in rows placed on top of one another, the waste of the chickens continually falls on the chickens below. The facilities are filled with the putrid smell of urine and excrement. Despite her natural life-span being ten years or more, as soon as a hen in a factory farm begins to decrease her egg-laying output she is killed. This normally happens between one or two years of age.
Chickens, whether they are raised for meat or eggs, lead short horrific lives and deserve to be treated better. Consider taking them off your plate and not contributing to their misery.