If you wanted to know the full story about where cage eggs come from - where would you go for the info? A website set up by the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd (AECL)? Or would you ask an imaginary green man named Gumby from the 1950s? If you chose the imaginary Gumby, you'd be ... CORRECT!
In case you don't know, Gumby was a plasticine man (thing?) on the telly from the 1950s right through to the 1980s. Him and his mates (including a talking horse and a dinosaur that drives a car) spent each episode getting crazy and generally having a good time. Now believe it or not, but it seems Gumby is more interested in schooling people about the reality of cage eggs than the AECL are! Check out this episode of Gumby where the Blockheads kidnap his friend Tilly (who is a chicken. Yes, Gumby is friends with a chicken - legend.)
Here's what Gumby got right about cage egg production:
- Hens will never feel the sun on their feathers.
- They're confined to cages their entire lives, with no chance for exercise.
- Hens suffer broken bones and lameness after spending their lives in a cramped cage.
- If a hen stops laying eggs, she's in serious trouble
The most accurate part comes at the 1.41 minute mark though. When Tilly asks where she is, her caged neighbour replies, "This is hell". Pretty heavy stuff for a kids show!
So how does this match up against what the AECL wants you to know about battery hens? On their website about hen welfare, they've listed all the supposed advantages for chickens confined in battery cages. (Remember, the space each bird gets inside these cages is not much larger than an A4 sheet of paper, and chickens spend their ENTIRE lives in there).
1) "If a bird does become sick, cage-based housing makes it easier to identify and remove birds for treatment." That's a touching thought, but I'm not sure that the sick bird at the end of this video would consider her 'treatment' that helpful. And it's not uncommon for birds to die unnoticed in their cage, leaving their cage mates stuck in a cage with their dead body.2) "Better protection from in-fighting and cannibalism." The reality is hens have the tips of their beaks sliced off to prevent them from pecking at each other in their cramped cage. Since when was cutting bits and pieces off animals to make them fit cruel systems ok?
3) "Protection from the elements and predators like eagles, snakes, foxes and feral cats." But I want to know who's protecting them from factory farmers! Being doomed to a life sentence in a battery cage is no life. They'll never smell fresh air, or even get to properly stretch their wings.
One fact that neither Gumby or the AECL mention, is what happens to all the male chicks in the egg industry (sadly, not just for cage eggs)...
"Hell" pretty much sums it up :(
The simplest way to make sure you aren't supporting chicken cruelty is to go egg-free (or if not, then at the very least ditch cage eggs). Your body doesn't need eggs any more than it needs plasticine and you can find egg replacers at most big supermarkets. You can do your bit to help hens by pledging to make the battery cage history.
(p.s. Want to know what all the other labels on egg cartons really mean for hens (and chicks)? Then grab this handy chart.)