Burger King, the second-largest fast-food company in the world, announced today that it will stop buying eggs from hens kept in battery cages by 2015, and it will stop buying pork from operations that use gestation crates by 2017. This will mean less intensive confinement for millions of animals raised for food on factory farms.
Battery cages: Egg-laying hens are crowded into wire cubes with so many others that they can barely move, let alone spread a wing. These battery cages frustrate the birds’ natural instincts to scratch and peck for food in the ground, dust bathe, and form family groups. Poultry producers cram the birds in tightly to maximize the number of eggs they can collect per square inch. Bored to distraction and with all their desires frustrated, some chickens resort to pecking each other, so egg producers sear off the ends of chicks’ beaks in a painful, mutilating procedure.
Gestation crates: Pork producers artificially inseminate sows to keep them pregnant four out of every five months, and they spend all the time they are pregnant in gestation crates where they cannot turn around or even lie down comfortably. The boredom and sometimes disabling pain falls heavily on animals who have been shown to have the intelligence of three-year-old humans.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said that “These changes by Burger King Corp. will improve life for countless farm animals and encourage other companies to abide by animal welfare principles up and down their supply chain.”
Burger King’s announcement is heartily welcome, but questions remain about the living conditions of the affected chickens and pigs. “Cage-free” can mean that rather than being crammed into cages, birds are crammed into a barn with no more space to move than they had in cages. As for sows, during the time they aren’t pregnant they are nursing, once again in squashed cages called farrowing crates that don’t allow them to move.
Still, BK’s new policy is progress. To encourage McDonald’s to swear off battery cages too, sign here.
Photo Credit: Ardfern