Eggs for breakfast? No thanks! If you knew that caged hens suffer terribly, denied the ability to do anything that is natural to them, things as simple as scratching in the dirt or flapping their wings, would you still want an egg, the cause of that suffering? The following five facts show that the reality of caged egg production is far from what it’s cracked up to be.
A caged hen is unable to even spread a wing
Caged hens cannot even spread their wings; it’s hard to imagine that sense of confinement day in, day out, for years. In colony cages, merely a new type of battery cage, each hen has less usable space than the area of an A4 piece of paper. This close confinement frustrates the hen as she is denied the ability to express her natural behaviours such as building a proper nest. Scientific tests have shown that while modern hens lay more eggs, they have retained most of their original instincts, which they are now unable to act upon.
Hens have been selectively bred to mass-produce eggs at a completely unnatural level. A modern caged hen will lay around 300 eggs a year, a disturbing growth from the 12-20 per year laid by her wild ancestors. That’s around a 1400% increase! Producing so many eggs inevitably has health consequences for the hen; her calcium levels are depleted, and add to that her lack of exercise, Preview Postand this can lead to osteoporosis and painful fractures.
Hens are mutilated
In this cramped, restrictive environment, aggression levels tend to rise, which can result in feather-pecking and even cannibalism. The logical solution would be to provide more space, but instead the industry is allowed to cut off the end of the hen’s sensitive beak. This can cause pain and may lead to problems eating.
Battery eggs never went away
Despite a ban on conventional battery cages that begins in 2022, hens will still be kept in cruel cages for their lifetime. You may have seen eggs on the supermarket shelf labelled as ‘colony laid’ or simply ‘colony eggs’. The word ‘caged’ is a glaring omission, left out deliberately to mislead the consumer, who has no reason to believe the eggs were laid by caged hens. Colony cages are just slightly ‘improved’ battery cages.
Since male chicks don’t lay eggs, they are seen as worthless to the industry and are killed at birth. This applies to all layer systems from caged to free range to organic. These babies are killed at a rate of more than three million a year in New Zealand alone – that’s an average of more than 340 deaths every hour of every day for a year. Chicks are killed either by carbon dioxide gassing or being minced ALIVE in a process called maceration.
Enough to put you off eggs? The reality is all layer hens suffer, and the best thing you can do to help these gentle, sensitive birds is to eliminate eggs from your diet. To find out more, delve a little deeper into the life of a layer hen.
Abi Izzard, Campaigns Officer