An international animal welfare group is launching a campaign in Canada and the United States to raise consumer awareness about what it calls the “disturbing plight” of hens raised in cages on industrial poultry farms.
Through its “Choose Cage-Free” campaign, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) aims to educate consumers about how caged hens are treated and encourage them to buy “cage free” eggs.
“Keeping hens in cages is one of the cruellest and most inhumane practices in modern farming,” said Josey Kitson, executive director of WSPA Canada.
Keeping hens in cages is one of the cruellest and most inhumane practices in modern farming.
— Josey Kitson, WSPA Canada
“The suffering is so vast. Over 300 million hens live in small, barren cages but every single day, people can make the simple choice to help these animals. Buying cage-free eggs supports better hen health and welfare, and provides safer, more wholesome eggs for consumers.”
According to the group, 95 percent of egg-laying hens in Canada live their entire lives in small cages in dark warehouses. The cages, which contain four to six hens each, are so small that there is not enough room for the birds to spread their wings or even turn around.
This leads to high levels of frustration and stress for the hens, which are intelligent, social animals whose nature is to perch, scratch, and strut about.
The stress, along with the “deplorable living conditions,” leaves the birds vulnerable to infections and bacteria, including Salmonella, the group says.
WSPA claims that eggs produced from cage-free hens have a lower risk of Salmonella contamination.
In many cases, chicks destined for caged farming also have their beaks trimmed, a painful procedure designed to prevent them from engaging in feather pecking and cannibalism while living in such close quarters.
A recent survey conducted for WSPA, whose head office is in London, England, found that 70 percent of Canadians believe that to be treated humanely, a hen should be able to stretch her wings and move around—something impossible in a small cage.
The survey also found that nearly 50 percent of egg buyers would purchase a different brand if they discovered the product came from animals that suffered.
The group is urging consumers to use their “purchase power” and buy cage-free eggs in order to help promote “kinder, better ways of farming.”
“Whenever we buy eggs at the grocery store or order them at a restaurant, we’re making a choice about the kind of food we want to eat and the kind of world we want to live in,” said Kitson.
“If we can let consumers know how much better cage-free eggs are for hens and for people, we know more of them will make the right choice.”
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