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But eggs are okay, right?

“Eating eggs is okay, right? I mean, chickens are laying them anyway; nobody gets hurt.”

Well, no. First, some quick facts.

Most laying hens live lives of abject misery. When they are hatched — in massive, industrial hatcheries — they are quickly and roughly separated by sex. Nobody handles these little newborns gently; they are literally tossed around like inanimate objects. The males, who serve no purpose to a hatchery, are disposed of — either thrown into garbage bins to eventually suffocate amongst each other, tosssed live into plastic garbage bags (because that’s what they are to the egg industry: garbage), or thrown into machines that will grind them alive.

In some ways, the females have it worse. Allowed to live, they will have their sensitive, nerve-filled beaks seared off and their toes will be cut off  (no anesthetic, no painkillers of any kind). This will prevent them from harming one another in their intensely crowded living conditions. Once old enough to lay eggs themselves they will be confined in tiny wire cages barely big enough to contain them. They cannot stretch their wings or engage in any natural behaviours at all.

Layer hen with dead cage-mate. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Layer hen with dead cage-mate below. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

The cages are stacked on top of one another so that fecal matter from one chicken falls onto the chicken below. Starvation and constant light are used to stimulate their bodies into more laying cycles, because chickens don’t lay eggs all the time. Many will die of neglect or illness; prolapsed uteruses from constant egg-laying are common. When a hen ceases to be sufficiently “productive,” she will be thrown — again, literally thrown — into another cage and it’s off to the slaughterhouse where she will be hung by one leg and move down an assembly line where a blade may or may not slice her throat. It might miss if she’s thrashing around. If it does, she will drown in a scalding tank, a large vat of boiling water, polluted by the bodily waste and blood of the chickens who have gone before here. (The scalding tank makes it easier to pluck her feathers.) She will then be turned into low-grade foods like chicken nuggets, chicken loaf (the kind you find in the deli section at the supermarket) and chicken burgers.

Incidentally, there is so little regulation around terms like “free range” and “free run” that the terms are virtually meaningless. And chickens and other birds raised for meat are exempt from the scant laws that exist regarding the welfare of farm animals. In other words, you can do anything you want to a chicken or a turkey and it’s not illegal.

Watch this short undercover video taken by Mercy For Animals. While McDonald’s is the big chain implicated, you should know that what you see in this video is NOT exceptional. It is the norm. Since the release of the video, the poultry farm involved says it has fired the abusive employees and McDonald’s has issued a statement that they will no longer get their eggs from this particular supplier. But it doesn’t matter. When eggs are produced on this scale, they’re all the same.

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