Casualties Of Egg Industry: Male Chicks Ground Up Alive
The new wave of American horror movies has not featured a series of slasher flicks or gruesome tales from beyond the dead. Rather, these films have had a far more sinister and chilling common thread; the reality of our food industries. The most stomach wrenching of these include visceral images of hysterical chickens, overfed to the point that their spindly legs are unable to support their grotesquely overgrown breasts, feedlot cattle standing knee deep in their own excrement with barely an inch to move and fattened at an alarmingly fast rate on nutritionally barren corn. Part of the horror we feel no doubt comes from some emotional reaction to seeing animals mistreated. A more significant portion, however, I suspect comes from some belief that such unhygienic conditions will contaminate the processed meat and therefore endanger our own health (think Mad Cow Disease etc).
When I read about and subsequently saw the animal welfare group, Mercy For Animals’, secretly filmed footage inside Hy – Line Hatchery in Iowa, the world’s largest hatchery for egg-laying breed chicks, I was first horrified. But when the horror subsided, I was above all riddled with a sense of hopelessness. The voiceover in the footage (which can be seen on You Tube) relays that male chicks born in the hatchery are considered redundant as they can’t lay eggs or be reared quickly enough to be profitably used for consumption. Hence the only viable option for Hy – Line and other like facilities is to get rid of the chicks. And by “get rid of”, I mean ground up alive in a massive meat grinder with a rotating blade into which the chicks are mercilessly dropped from a conveyor belt.
A Mercy for Animals employee who had gotten a job at the plant for two months this summer precisely to expose this practice, shot the video using a hidden camera and microphone. In addition to showing male chicks being roughly thrown onto a conveyer belt where they are carted off to their death, it shows a chick which accidentally found itself in a scalding hot bath and another chick which had fallen onto the factory floor and was left to die.
Hy-Line admitted to the Associated Press that “instantaneous euthanasia” (e.g. grinding up male chicks) is a standard practice throughout the industry and asserts that it is also supported by the animal veterinary and scientific community. Objectively – if objectivity is even possible in such a situation, it is impossible to know how much more painful this method of dying is (if it is at all) than other practices (such as stunning or the slitting of the throat which is used in Halal slaughterhouses). Still, to any rational human being, throwing a live animal into a grinder moments after its birth seems unjustifiable no matter what angle you take. And aside from the moral questions, in a world where million are starving, this loss of perfectly good food is a grave waste of valuable resources and calories.
The quandary with this “undercover investigation” is that it is the mistreatment not of the animal (or animal product) that we consume but rather the animal which we don’t, that we are being asked to consider and act to redress. Mercy for Animals has appealed to the country’s largest supermarket chains to post labels on egg cartons, warning consumers that the egg industry are ground-up alive by the egg industry. The challenge for the consumer who is moved to act by the exposé of what Mercy for Animals deems “one of the (egg) industry’s best kept secrets”, is that there really isn’t a great deal one can do, short of not eating eggs altogether, that is.
As a voracious meat-eater, I buy organic or free roaming when ever I can – grass fed when it comes to beef, I frequent my local farmers market and I always try to trace back the provenance of my meat. Of course, this is rarely possible when eating out, unless of course you dine haute cuisine and have an endless budget. I don’t. Still, where I can I try and ensure that my dinner has had a content life and a merciful death. This way I am morally at peace with myself and I know I’m not filling my body with growth hormones and antibiotics.
Coming back to the poignant tale of those male chicks, buying commercially available cage-free or even organic eggs will not help their plight as most producers would have got their hens from the same chick-grinding sources. When it comes to producing organic eggs, what matters is that the surviving hens are fed organic, pesticide, antibiotic and fertilizer free feed and that they are raised outside. The fate of their unlucky brothers is neither here nor there.
Of course, there’s always raising your own hens and producing your own chicks and consequently your own eggs. Any male chicks can be slowly raised and will one day make a delicious roast. In fact, city chickens are becoming an increasing common sight. This way you can also source your breeding hens from local, independent farmers or breeders who practice a more sustainable, humane method. For more information, check out City Chickens.
The danger of being bombarded with images such as those on the video is that we may become anesthetized to them. In the Eighties charities realized that images of starving, crying children no longer elicited the millions they needed because people became “immune” to them. Instead, they landed upon a new, fresh and once more effective image; that of the smiling, happy child, grateful and transformed by the beneficence of the viewer.
Lets hope that a helpless baby animal being obliterated moments after its birth still has the power to change the way we run our food system.