The free range farming label is one of the biggest marketing scams of our time, goading ethically minded consumers into buying cruelty based products by selling them an ideology which in no way represents reality.
Many consumers are opposed to the idea of factory farming as it is clear to see how cruel and inhumane it is for the animals trapped inside the industry. Upon discovering the truth of factory farming, a large number of people switch to buying free range eggs, as they are under the impression that these birds live happy healthy lives with the freedom to roam in lush green fields, flapping about in the sunshine and pecking in the dirt. Sadly, this vision of a free range hen is often just an illusion.
Free Range Lies
Consumers are led to believe that free range hens spend all day outside with the freedom to enjoy a relatively normal and happy life, but statistics show that the vast majority of free range hens live in overcrowded cramped conditions and never get the opportunity to feel the sun on their backs, or grass under their feet.
The legal requirements for free range hens in the United States only stipulates that hens are given access to the outside, but the amount of space and time spent outside is left up to the farmer to decide. Many farms are designed with tiny doors to the outside, and due to the hens’ territorial nature, these entrances are often guarded by certain individuals, not allowing access to others. A huge majority of hens are so far away from these doors that they do not even know they exist, and the farmers do not even legally have to open them unless they want to.
Many farmers do not allow access to the outside until 5 months of age, by which time they have become so accustomed to living inside that they are afraid to venture into an unknown area. In practice this means that the majority of free range hens never actually go outside and instead live their entire lives in huge, cramped, squalid conditions which lead to feather loss, illness, disease, injury and depression. Hardly the picture printed onto the side of the egg carton, is it?
Free Range and Factory Farming Practices are Almost Identical
As well as considering the lies told about the living conditions of free range hens, it’s important to look at the standard industry practices as well, as these are enough to make ethically minded consumers think twice about what they are supporting when buying eggs, free range or not.
All eggs come from hatcheries where male chicks are considered to be a byproduct of the process and are crushed alive at just one day old. Females have the tip of their beaks burnt off to prevent pecking injuries to each other and are then crammed into huge crates and sent off to their destination farms, with millions dying in transit due to starvation, dehydration and injury.
Despite not being housed in individual cages like factory farmed hens, free range egg layers are kept in extremely cramped conditions with as many as 20,000 hens being raised in a single barn, each having a space the size of an iPad.
There is nothing humane about conditions these hens have to endure during their lives, and it is time we started lifting the lid on the myth of free range farming. It is factory farming with a pretty label on the packaging, certainly not a welfare standard consumers should be feeling happy about.
Photo Credit: Animal Liberation Victoria