First, let’s note that the human body has no nutritional need for the eggs of other animals. If you’re looking for a way to increase protein or fat intake, you need not expect help from a bird. Beans, avocados, or quinoa with chopped nuts can do the job.
And we damage our environment when we take the extra resources required to store and feed animals – chickens included. North Americans who opt out of eggs, dairy, and flesh products cut our yearly individual greenhouse gas emissions by about a ton and a half. Talk about direct action!
But those vital messages are absent in talk of a ‘step forward’ or a ‘victory’ when a new model of birdcage is proposed. Can we be honest? Putting birds in colony cages, taking their eggs away, and killing them at the end of their run does not make them happy. It doesn’t even make them more fortunate than they used to be. Birds in cages 18 years from now won’t thank us because we could have made those cages smaller.
Birds kept in colony cages show a heightened vulnerability to bumblefoot, an infection of the skin and tissues of the foot. They never see or feel the light and warmth of the sun. The bleak conditions of egg farms lead some birds into what industry calls ‘hen hysteria’ and desperate attempts to compete over what little space and material they have. (And in a modified cage, the nesting area – even if it’s just a plastic strip - ups the ante.) Whether the birds are going to battery farms, modified cages, or sheds, the suppliers first sever the beaks of newly hatched chicks, to keep birds from pecking each other. And hundreds of millions of male chicks will be killed annually at the hatcheries, for male birds are useless in egg production. Cannibalism occurs in confinement – whether in barren battery cages or the new furnished cages. And ultimately the birds who survive their 70 weeks of captive existence will be slaughtered as – to use the industrial terminology – spent hens.