<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Is "free range" less cruel? 

While surfing around the past couple
of days, I have noticed quite a few people
who are concerned with the treatment
of chickens. Their answer to this is to
buy "free range" eggs. They seem to
believe that in doing so, they are not
supporting cruelty. Well, congratulations
to the industry - they have certainly
pulled the wool over many people's eyes.
Today I believe I will pull it off and let
them see the truth.

First off, any birds raised in the U.S. for
meat can be sold as "free range" if they
have USDA certified access to the outdoors.
There is no other criteria. It does not mean
their living conditions are much better or
they have much more room. These are not
happy chickens pecking around in the grass.
They can be given access to no more than a
gravel-lined area and get this certification.

The "free range" hens kept for laying eggs
are still debeaked just as the battery hens
are. They are still kept in an enclosed shed
with not very much floor space per bird.
"Free range" does not mean they are even
allowed outside at all. They are just given
a little more space (1 to 2 sq. ft. as opposed
to 50 in.), which still falls way short of the
290 sq. in. the hen needs to flap her wings,
and they are not in cages. If they are allowed
outside, there is usually only a small opening
that only the closest chickens can reach. This
yard may be nothing more than a nasty mud
area filled with disease and droppings. Free
range only works when the land is fresh. It
does not take very long for crowded birds to
despoil an area.

Right now there are no set standards
defining what can be labeled "free range"
eggs. These hens may not be caged over
a manure pit, but they are walking around
in it. In fact, the hens in a "free range"
house have a higher mortality rate than the
ones kept in cages because they must live in
their own excrement, which is filthy and
disease-ridden .

Just as with the battery caged hens, "free
range" hatcheries kill all male chicks shortly
after birth. Standard killing methods are to
either grind them up alive or throw them into
trash bags to suffocate. The "spent" hens
are still sent to slaughter after about a year.

Now, for the ones labeled "Animal Care Certified"
by the industry trade group United Egg
Producers (UEP): A product may be labeled
as such if they abide by their guidelines of
67 sq. in. per bird. It does not even have to
happen immediately, but can be phased in
over a 6-year period. The guidelines do not
prohibit forced-molting or debeaking. They
can still be kept in cages suspended over a
manure pit.

For more information on this issue, including
pictures, you can visit UPC's or COK's pages
that lay all this out.

For those who thought they were doing the
right thing and not supporting cruelty, I am
glad you are making an effort. But, don't
let the industry's jargon fool you. Do a little
research. Get informed. The facts are out
there. And I am always just an email away
if you have any other questions.
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