Letter defending industry lays a rotten egg

The animal science department needs to better educate its students on issues.

In response to the letter from “concerned University animal science students” about the egg industry, it should be of great concern to the animal science department how little its students actually know about animal welfare in the egg industry.

The anonymous students assert that caged laying hens are given more cage space than the area of a piece of paper. In reality, the industry trade association United Egg Producers recommends that laying hens be given 67 square inches of cage space per bird, whereas an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of paper has an area of 93.5 square inches, far more than the 67 square inches that is afforded to caged laying hens.

The animal science students also claim no male chicks are killed for the egg industry. On the contrary, at hatcheries that produce the chicks that will become laying hens, half of all the chicks born are male. These male chicks – more than 150 million of them annually – are killed on their first day of life. No one in the hatchery business denies this.

The students defend the practice of removing parts of the birds’ beaks. With regard to de-beaking of laying hens, poultry scientist Ian Duncan claims that it “has been shown (by me and by others) to cause both acute and chronic pain and should not be allowed to be carried out routinely. It has been banned in some European countries and they have shown that it is possible to keep hens without de-beaking them.”

And finally, the students argue that only happy hens will be productive and profitable. Poultry scientist Joy Mench rebuts this claim: “It is now generally agreed that good productivity and health are not necessarily indicators of good welfare Ö Individual animals may be in a comparatively poor state of welfare even though productivity within the unit may be high.”

The egg industry should be ashamed of its routine disregard for animal welfare, and our animal science department needs to do a better job of educating its students on animal welfare issues.

Seth Tommeraasen is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]