Battery cages are not good for chickens

Gregory’s assertions about the egg industry are false or scrambled at best.

It’d be difficult for Gene Gregory’s defense of battery-cage egg production to be more misleading in Monday’s guest column “Battery cages are good for chickens.” Gregory’s assertions are false or scrambled at best.

Gregory claims that battery cages ensure birds are protected from weather ” an irrelevant and misleading statement, as he is fully aware that University students are asking for cage-free, not free-range, eggs. Hens raised in cage-free farms do not go outside, but are able to walk around large barns, lay their eggs in nests, spread their wings, and engage in many important behaviors which are denied to battery-cage hens.

Gregory also claims that the battery-cage system “allows farm caretakers to visually inspect each hen every day.” The average egg factory farm employs about one worker for every 100,000 birds. Even if the worker was visually inspecting the animals at a rate of one bird per second (clearly not enough time to spot, let alone address, problems), it would take well over 24 hours ” with no breaks whatsoever ” to inspect each bird. As any math student could attest, this is impossible.

Despite Gregory’s claims that his trade group’s voluntary industry guidelines represent good animal care, the facts speak otherwise. The guidelines recommend each bird receive a meager allotment of 67 square inches of cage floor space ” less than the area of a sheet of letter-sized paper. Birds confined at this density are barely able to move, let alone spread their wings. Does that sound like good animal care? Leading poultry welfare science experts, consumers, students, corporations and the growing number of cage-free egg producers believe otherwise.

After reviewing scientific data, the European Commission’s Scientific Veterinary Committee concluded: “It is clear that because of its small size and its barrenness, the battery cage as used at present has inherent severe disadvantages for the welfare of hens.” It’s for this reason Switzerland, Germany and Austria have outlawed battery- cage egg production.

The Daily was right to editorialize in favor of a cage-free egg policy, and the school would be wise to listen to students’ concerns. The University would be best served by joining the more than 75 schools that have ended or are phasing out their use of battery-cage eggs.

Paul Shapiro is the manager of the Factory Farming Campaign of the Humane Society of the United States. Please send comments to [email protected]