Posts tagged battery cage hens

If you’re against cruelty, why aren’t your senators?

Are you against dog and cock fitting?  Are you against hens in battery cages and inhumane factory farms? 

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you are not going to be happy with this news. (The Republic, Seattle PI, SF Chronicle)

Last night the US Senate denied consideration and debate of two amendments to the farm bill that would 1) improve the lives of chickens on factory farms and 2) cracks down on dog fighting and cock-fighting (remember Micheal Vick’s major case).

Both amendments had considerable support in the US Senate and the egg industry reform amendment was sponsored by Democrats, Republicans and Independents including Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Scott Brown, R-Mass., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., David Vitter, R-La. and Ron Wyden, D-Ore and several more. (HSUS)

Note that it was not the egg industry that was against this amendment!  In fact, the United Egg Producers Association was a huge supporter of the amendment and advocated for its passage.

So what went wrong last night?  A group of lobbyists (American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council) are too afraid of their own customers.  Their fear — that they will have to be humane to animals. (HSUS)

“This is a matter of self-determination for the egg industry,” said David Lathem, second-generation egg farmer from Georgia and chairman of UEP in a press release several weeks ago. “No other sector of animal agriculture should prevent our industry from innovating, improving animal welfare, and finding best practices that will protect our farmers and answer major questions posed by consumers.”

So if congress will not or can not act on our behalf, we do it ourselves. 

First it’s our duty to stop buying any meat from producers who are continuing to treat animals inhumanely.  Meat can be obtained from local humane farms or easily from Whole Foods (see post here).

Second, support the Humane Society of the US who will work to include these amendments in the US House version of this bill (See Pacelle blog).

Lastly, write to your local newspaper in response to this news story (Seattle PI).  Let them know how factory farms, dog fighting and cock-fighting causes us personal pain as we feel deeply that animals, regardless of their role in agriculture, should be treated humanely.

Also, you can let you representatives know that you want to see action on humane issues for farm animals.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Chicks in the City

Rhodie (left), Hedda and Honeybee

By Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

April 10, 2012

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

As consumers, most of us are disturbed by the inhumane practice of factory farming. Chickens, as well as pigs and other farm animals, suffer much of their lives in cramped, relentless conditions that would make anyone go mad.

Yet, the practice of urban agriculture has garnered considerable attention in recent years, and Seattle chicken keepers can ensure that their birds are happy and well cared for while being rewarded with fresh eggs.

At least that is the goal for Kristin Baerg’s students at North Seattle Community College. Baerg teaches a class on chicken keeping and urban farming. In addition to being a busy mom of young children, Baerg runs a hobby farm with cows, pigs and chickens in Monroe and shares her expertise in her classes.

Humane conditions

In her Chicks in the City class, Baerg explains that chicken keeping is a legal, sustainable practice in Seattle and is an easy way to avoid supporting factory farming. The two-and-half-hour class covers topics from chicken breeds to first aid. Up to eight chickens can be kept in yard pens, and Baerg said they take very little time to care for overall.

Baerg said that her chickens are raised for meat, as well: “People often asked me how I can eat animals that I know. But I remind them that the animals I raised lived happy healthy lives before it was their time to go.

“I wonder how people can buy packaged meat from the store with the knowledge that the animal suffered terribly for a lifetime,” Baerg continued. “We have a responsibility to prevent suffering of animals in our care.”

Apparently, animal advocates, egg producers and consumers alike agree with Baerg’s sentiment.

Recently, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which advocates for the humane treatment of all animals regardless of their role in our society, made an agreement with the United Egg Producers, an industry trade association, to support legislation to improve conditions in industrial egg facilities nationally.

Hedda the chicken

Paul Shapiro, senior director of Farm Animal Protection for the HSUS, said the bill is being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives but has not yet been passed into law. If enacted, the new law would apply higher animal-welfare standards equally to all egg producers. Chickens would be in better environments and have increased room to walk. The goal is to give some relief to chickens in these factory conditions.

Caring for chickens

Featherflop III

As for keeping backyard chickens, Shapiro said it can be an eye-opening experience. “As long as there are sufficient rules in place to protect chickens from cruelty and neglect, residents get the opportunity to see what beautiful, intelligent and interesting creatures chickens actually are,” Shapiro said.

Mollie Welch and Cleo

North Seattle resident Mollie Welch reported a similar experience raising hens. Welch is my neighbor, and she cares for five laying hens of all different breeds. Hedda, a white-crested black Polish, frequently roams Welch’s front yard with her sister-hens Honeybee (a partridge cochin), Rhodie (a Rhode Island red), Cleo (a white-caced Wyandotte) and Featherflop III (an Ameraucana hen).

“It’s a family name,” Welch explained of the last hen. Featherflop I and II have since passed on.

Eggs from Mollie Welch’s chickens

Welch has enjoyed her chickens for about a year. She brought them home from Portage Bay Grange, a supply store that offers chicken, rabbit and goat feed for urban animal keeping here in Seattle. Now, the flock produces seven to 12 eggs a week, ranging in color from delicately brown-spotted from Honeybee to soft green from Cleo.

Welch learned chicken keeping from a variety of sources, and recently had to care for a wound on Hedda’s head. An anti-pecking compound turned Hedda’s head feathers purple giving her a punk-rock look for a while. But otherwise Welch’s first aid was successful.

In the driveway is a cedar chicken coop with laying beds and a free-run area. The chickens are secured in the coup and safe from predators when Welch is away. But the walk from the coop door to the front gate is a familiar one for the chickens. They know the way, waiting for Welch to open the gate and begin their afternoon foraging in the front yard.

“I really enjoy them,” Welch said, as her chickens scratch around the garden for a dirt bath.

And as for friendly Hedda, Honeybee, Rhodie, Cleo and Featherflop III, the feeling appears to be completely mutual.

For information on Baerg’s Chicks in the City class, see the North Seattle Community College Continuing Education website.

Urban-farming classes are also available through Seattle Tilth (seattletilth.org).

For more information on advocacy for farm animals, visit the HSUS website at www.humanesociety.org.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who writes the blog “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at http://www.sniffingouthome.org.

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Cage-free is easy, and it’s the right thing to do

During my ride to work just a few weeks ago, I saw a transport truck stacked high with chickens in cages with not enough room to even stand.  What’s more, they were loosing their feathers onto the road because they were unprotected from the highway wind.

These were likely battery cage hens headed for a life in those same cages.  When I got to work, I stepped out of the office to take a few minutes to cry about what I’d just seen and the sad life of hens in our world today.  Especially, when there is such an easy alternative.

Chickens lay eggs.  They still lay eggs when they are out of cages.  So no one need go with out their morning eggs, as long as you buy the cage-free eggs.  It’s that easy: it’s that simple.

Cage-free eggs are becoming more common, and even less expensive over time.  Yes, you might find that buying cage-free eggs is a little more expensive, but the lifetime of cruelty and suffering that you’ve prevented is far more valuable than $0.50 more on a dozen eggs.  Please, please buy cage free today and everyday.

Here is one more thing you can do to make a difference, and it’s just as easy as buying cage-free eggs.

Encourage McDonald’s Canada to become 100% cage-free.  The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has an easy submission form to write to McDonald’s asking them to serve cage-free eggs, while the news from McDonald’s USA and Europe is encouraging.

“McDonald’s® restaurants across the UK and Europe are already cage-free. In the USA, McDonald’s® has stated they aim to use 12 million cage-free eggs this year. It is time for McDonald’s® Canada to follow these examples.”  ~WSPA

To help McDonald’s Canada become cage-free, click here.  Note many other companies have already made the transition.  Please ask your company or school to make the switch.  It’s easy, and it’s the right thing to do.

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