Friday, February 17, 2012
Battery cages must go
Egg-laying hens in most states are crowded together in wire "battery cages." Unbelievably, each one of these cages -- comparable in size to a microwave oven, but taller -- can hold between 4-11 hens.
Clearly, animals housed this way are regarded as nothing more than egg-producers, as if they weren't even alive. There's no consideration of their comfort, let alone their normal life style -- which of course does not include living in a cramped wire cage with other hens, never free to walk around, move wings or scratch the ground.
This disgusting treatment has gone on for a long time as a facet of factory farming. Only now is there slow movement toward eliminating battery cages, the NYTimes reported in a Feb. 14 editorial ("More Humane Egg Production").
A federal bill would call for "labeling on all egg cartons to specify whether the eggs are from caged, cage-free or free-range hens." (Exact definitions for these terms were not included, and earlier reading indicates "free-range," nice as it sounds compared with battery cages, can mean very limited time on the ground among countless other hens: not very free; not very far-ranging. )
Further, it would "phase in over the next 15 years to 18 years (!!!) requirements for larger cages, perches,scratching areas and nesting boxes," with farmers allowed full depreciation on their present "equipment."
More humane treatment of laying hens is not right around the corner! How many more generations of chickens will suffer in battery cages till there's change for the better?
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A couple more points on McDonald's move toward eventual elimination of gestation crates among their suppliers. It consumes about 1% of the nation's total production, a number considered huge and potentially influential. The National Pork Producers Council, reportedly concerned about the possibility of (more sweeping and stringent?) federal legislation on farming practices, will work with McDonald's to assure changes for sows are market-driven, not the result of government mandates.
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If you're thinking about assuring your pets' healthy, happy future if they live longer than you, and/or if you're interested in another take on the recent Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, you're invited to visit the Star-Ledger pets page at www.nj.com/pets and scroll down for information and opinions on both subjects.