I tell people I am vegan and they might say “but what about eggs, do you eat them?”, I then explain that a vegan does not eat eggs from exploited chickens and they might respond with something like “well, I only eat eggs that are free range”. I am left to wonder if there are many people who realise that by eating free range eggs they are still contributing to the mistreatment and slaughter of millions of innocent lives, the lives of sentient beings (they feel).
Now, by choosing to eat free range eggs it tells me that these people do have a conscience about where their food comes from – they obviously care enough not to eat eggs from battery hens. It also tells me that they do not know the full truth. Unfortunately, we have become so far removed from where our food comes from and what happens in the process for it to get to our plate that we just automatically believe what is told to us, a fairy-tale image of happy hens in open paddocks laying eggs whenever they feel like it.
Unlike the image that free range means something like the photo above, here is the truth:
There are no standards in New Zealand regarding free range. So what does that mean? What does free range mean anyway? All it means is that they are not in a small cage. Nothing more. It means that some still never see the light of day. It means that they can still be kept in cramped conditions. It means that they still go to the slaughterhouse on an assembly line chain just like the battery hens. It means that millions of day-old chicks are discarded simply because they are born the ‘wrong’ sex or not ‘egg-laying’ condition.
Just like the battery hens these so-called free range girls go to slaughter when their egg production takes a decline. And to replace these hens after going to slaughter? More females have to be born. The gender ratio is roughly 50/50 from hatched eggs, so what happens to the baby boys? Well, on the first or second day of birth they get sexed, by someone who inserts their finger (you know where) to determine if they are a boy or girl. The boys and the girls deemed not suitable for egg laying are then discarded, some gassed with the likes of carbon dioxide, some appallingly get fed into crushers - alive. Into giant mincers they are stripped of limbs and wings and crushed. Both methods are horrid, horrid thing to do. So this means that for every hen that becomes an egg-layer just over one chick had to die.
The female chicks are not raised by their mothers (who I might add are wonderful mothers) they are raised in artificial incubators, with artificial light and heat and many commercial incubators holding tens of thousands of eggs at a time, with rotation of the eggs a fully automated process.
At about 21 days after being layed they hatch and are then ready for the outside world – a world of artificial light and artificial food, sexed and sorted and if ‘kept’ generally debeaked at around 10-days-old. Debeaking is done without any painkiller and is an extremely painful experience. Why do they get debeaked? Because under stress they peck each other. You might think that if they peck each other then they should be debeaked, wrong, if they are not living under stress they quickly establish a ‘pecking-order’ and no longer need to take out their depression on others. Given room, natural food and a good life there is no need for depression, hence, no reason for pecking, hence, no reason for debeaking.
These little girls are then raised until their egg production starts at which point they could be fed chemicals to make their egg yolk look more golden and to make them lay more often. They then lay on average up to 300 eggs within that year, pumping them out. So think about it, one hen works for just under 12-days to supply a dozen eggs.
They are still young (12-months) when they naturally go through a short moulting period at which time their egg production declines. The cost of feeding, and the non-generating-of-income means that they do not get to wait for their moult to finish before egg production comes back, they are sent to the slaughterhouse. Still young, still in their prime. Hens, depending on the breed, will live from five to about ten years of age, they go to the slaughterhouse at one.
To get to the slaughterhouse they are picked up upside down by their feet and shoved into crates to be transported where they then get shackled upside down onto a chain which dips their heads into a waterbath. The waterbath stuns them only, it does not kill them. The back of their neck is then sliced, and in some cases their spinal cord can be cut but they may regain consciousness only to have their heads pulled off on another machine.
What a traumatic way to live and die. Thought of as just egg laying machines without thought, care or compassion, and so easily replaced with more suffering birds. And the cycle goes on, round and round.
Now, think back to when you were young, your mum or dad possibly read you children’s books with cute little chicks on the cover or on the pages, think back to how you saw them then – did you get the warm fuzzies? I know I did. Well those cute little chicks are no different from the ones born in the egg industry, minced into nuggets or to live very short miserable lives. Whether they are born male or female does not make their lives or deaths any better, they are all treated like commodities. As a child would you have wanted that? No, so now as an adult you have the choice to say “no, I will not tolerate it, I will not!”.