The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is generating a lot of controversy as a result of its decision to make public undercover video footage shot inside of America's two largest egg farms. Apparently, the film shows "workers slamming chickens into metal bins and dead animals littering cages." (Source) The footage was shot secretly inside of facilities belonging to Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises, both located in Iowa.
The video footage has sparked a war of words between HSUS and the food industry. Unfortunately, the debate has nothing to do with the rights of the hens. As HSUS President Wayne Pacelle announced at a news conference in Des Moines yesterday: "We're not asking for an end to the confinements of animals in buildings. We're asking they not be crammed into cages and crates barely larger than their bodies." (Source)
He went on to say: "Those same producers are producing cage-free eggs by the millions to account for the growing demand for these products. We're not talking about a pie-in-the-sky alternative." (Source)
Well, I say: Let's talk about pie-in-the-sky alternatives. These puny animal welfare measures do nothing but provide short-term feel-good solutions to lull food consumers back into a state of denial. How is it going to change the harsh conditions and rampant abuses in these egg-laying facilities to switch from caged hens to cage-free hens? How will that help one iota? Will it stop workers from slamming the chickens? Will it make life better for the chickens? Will they be anything other than slaves, forced to lay eggs for human beings who don't need eggs to survive?
Nobody talks about pie-in-the-sky alternatives anymore. People are too focused on pragmatic solutions. But if nobody aims high, great change will never come. In 1850, abolitionism was about as "pie in the sky" as you can get. The handful of brave men and women who wanted to free African Americans from bondage in the middle of the 19th Century faced persecution, ostracism, even death. And they did NOT have the press or courts or politicians on their side.
But they had something far more powerful going for them: They had right on their side. They had justice on their side. And these are far more than simple abstractions...
Use that damning video footage for something far more meaningful than a debate over caged versus cage-free eggs. Use it to show the beauty of birds that bond with their parents and offspring, understand mathematics, enjoy a day out in the sun as much of the rest of us, and have a right to live full and peaceful lives.
Pie in the sky? Sure. Right and just? Yes.