Earlier this month the Chicago-based animal activist group called, Mercy for Animals released a dramatic video depicting the cruel treatment of newborn male chicks born at the Hy-Line egg hatchery in Iowa.
The video, which was filmed by one of the organization’s undercover investigators, graphically showed the gruesome euthanizing of male chicks as they were lifted onto a conveyor belt and carried to a chute that dropped them into a grinding machine – while they were still alive.
Mercy for Animals reported that this procedure is standard practice in the egg industry and that 200 million newly hatched male chicks are disposed of in this manner, every year.
After reading the horrific details of this story and watching (portions) of the video, I came away wondering, “What does Mercy for Animals want the public to do with this information? Can we change this practice?”
So I contacted Nathan Runkle, executive director for Mercy for Animals to see if he could shed some light on the subject. Here is what he had to say about the egg industry.
Why did your organization film this video?
Runkle: We wanted to wake up the public to the reality of this problem. The day to day operations of the egg industry and the poultry industry are inherently cruel. We wanted consumers to be aware of what goes on, in the name of cheaper eggs.
There is no quick solution to this problem because the system is broken. Mercy for Animals wanted to shine the light on farm animals. There are no federal laws that protect poultry.
The Humane Slaughter Act which requires all livestock to be rendered unconscious before being slaughtered does not include birds. Poultry wasn’t considered to be livestock when the law was passed and this gave the industry with a loophole that has caused tremendous cruelty to chickens and turkeys. Males born in this industry are considered as “garbage.”
What would you encourage the public do to stop this problem?
Runkle: Mercy for Animals promotes a Vegan lifestyle and we encourage that everyone move toward that goal, but really the public can have the most impact by creating less demand for eggs. With more consumers aware of the problem, we hope fewer eggs will be bought and used. This will force the egg industry to move to a more humane system.
The public can also support laws to protect factory farm animals and modify the Animal Welfare Act to include birds. The Humane Society of the United States and other animal advocate groups are currently working to change those laws now.
Are there any “good eggs” around?
Runkle: No, sorry. The grinding of male chicks is standard practice in the industry. Even farms that raise “cage free” hens get their eggs from factory hatcheries. Unless you can find an old-fashioned farm that raises the chickens and hatches their own eggs, all of the eggs start out the same way. A family farm that handles the whole process wouldn’t be able to produce eggs for very many people, though.
Isn’t there some place the male chickens could go or be used?
Runkle laughed. No, not at this point. It wouldn’t make money, so nobody wants to look into this.
Why was Mercy for Animals created?
Runkle: We are a national non-profit farmed animal advocacy organization. The largest numbers of animals in the U.S. are factory farm animals and 99% of cruelty to animals happens to the ones used for meat, dairy and in the egg industry. We exist to see that all animals are treated with respect and compassion.
Is there any research being done to detect male eggs before they hatch?
Runkle: There are no machines being tested to detect male eggs, but in Australia where they kill 10 million male chicks a year, they are working on a way to breed only female eggs. It may become the way of the future.
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