Today the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released video from its latest undercover investigation into the industrial agribusiness which exposes the terrible treatment and extreme unsanitary conditions that hens are subjected to at a factory farm owned by Cal-Maine, the nation’s top egg producer.
Cal-Maine, which has approximately $1 billion in annual sales and has nearly 30 million laying hens, had one quarter of a million eggs recalled earlier this month.
The video was taken by a HSUS investigator who worked at a Cal-Maine factory egg farm in Waelder, Texas for 28 days and documented multiple cases of brutally inhumane treatment of hens as well as serious food safety threats, including:
- Countless dead birds in cages with live birds. Some birds were dead for so long that their corpses were mummified and appeared to have been rotting at least for weeks on end. As the video shows, eggs even roll by the head of a dead bird on a conveyor belt.
- Birds trapped in cage wires, unable to reach food or water. Cage wires can trap hens’ wings, necks, legs and feet, causing other birds to trample the weakened animals, usually resulting in a slow, painful death.
- Abandoned hens. Live birds were roaming outside their cages, some falling into manure pits.
- Injuries. Birds had bloody feet and broken legs from cage wires, hens with prolapsed uteri from laying too many eggs.
- Overcrowding injuries. Cal-Maine crams multiple birds into one cage, giving each hen only 67 square inches of cage space—less than a sheet of paper on which to live for more than a year.
- Eggs covered in blood and feces
The Humane Society is calling for Cal-Maine, as well as other egg producers to move away from the use of battery cage confinement methods, which they say is inherently inhumane and jeopardizes food safety.
"Time and again, we’ve found that these massive facilities caging hundreds of thousands of animals do not properly care for the birds or safeguard our food supply," stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "It’s time for the egg industry to embrace cage-free housing systems and move away from battery cage confinement methods.”
According to HSUS, this is not just an animal rights issue, but also a consumer issue. A 2010 study found a 20 times greater incidence of salmonella infection in eggs from caged flocks with 142,000 people suffering from salmonella poisoning from eggs per year.
The European Union has agreed to phase out the use of battery cages by 2012. In the U.S. California and Michigan have passed laws to ban the practice of caging hens.
“We can do better than this, we must do better than this,” said Pacelle.
Watch the undercover footage. Warning: the images are disturbing.
Photo credit: Screen capture HSUS.org