Wednesday, April 7, 2010

For Chickens, "Cage-Free" is Nothing to Write Home About

There was a good column in the Des Moines Register (Iowa) today about "cage-free" eggs. Have a look at it, if you get a chance. It draws attention to the fallacy that chickens are somehow better off in a cage-free setting. On the contrary, hens who lay cage-free eggs are still cramped together. They use the bathroom all over the place (which inevitably gets on the eggs). They peck each other. The atmosphere is still dark and unpleasant and traumatic for them.

According to the article, the sandwich chain Subway announced on March 22 that they won't be using care-free eggs in any of their food anymore, due to the increasingly negative reputation of the method. Various animal welfare groups have pointed out that chickens are often far more comfortable in cages than when they're free to wander with countless numbers of their own in tight, dark spaces. Apparently, the cage method is actually more humane. The article also cites an Arizona Republic columnist, Linda Valdez, who concluded that chickens in facilities with cages are much better off than she expected.

Animal welfare groups can debate these issues until they're blue in the face. The truth is, the most humane approach to this issue is to go vegan and stop eating eggs completely.

Short of that, it is encouraging that these feel-good terms like "cage-free," "free-range," "conscientious carnivore," etc., are being called into question. People should see the fallacy of these warm-and-fuzzy terms. They were invented to make omnivores feel better. But when you get right down to it, they don't mean much. In the last analysis, animals still suffer regardless and their brutally short lives end just as ultra-violently.

It is time - long past time - to start talking about their rights.

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