Last year, while I was pondering making the leap from vegetarian to vegan, I talked to some PETA friends about eggs and dairy. I asked them what was wrong with milk from well-treated cows, going through the natural cycle of calving, or eggs from chickens that lived natural lives.
“What about the male calves who can’t grow up to be milked?” they replied. “What about the male chicks who can’t grow up to lay eggs?”
The answer is that they are slaughtered. Now, I believe that the humane farmers don’t slaughter the male offspring in the same hideous way that factory farms take care of business. But that answer was enough to convince me that it is very hard to eat any animal products, no matter how well the animals are treated, with a good conscience.
And this morning I recalled that conversation when I cam across this video depicting the fate of male chicks at America’s largest egg-laying facility. It does not show some random workers abusing animals. It shows an industrialized process that is a horrific dramatization of how egg-laying and egg-eating has no place for male chicks (or beaks).
The extent to which the industrial food industry has institutionalized mass slaughter through the use of technology is truly shocking, and a pretty good reminder of why the industry does everything it can to keep the processes it uses to put cheap food on plates hidden from the people happily eating that food.
Here’s Mercy For Animals’ explanation of what is going on:
For the nearly 150,000 male chicks who hatch every 24 hours at this Hy-Line facility, their lives begin and end the same day. Grabbed by their fragile wings by workers known as “sexers,” who separate males from females, these young animals are callously thrown into chutes and hauled away to their deaths. They are destined to die on day one because they cannot produce eggs and do not grow large or fast enough to be raised profitably for meat. Their lives are cut short when they are dropped into a grinding machine – tossed around by a spinning auger before being torn to pieces by a high-pressure macerator.
Over 30 million male chicks meet their fate this way each year at this facility.
For the surviving females, this is the beginning of a life of cruelty and confinement at the hands of the egg industry. Before even leaving the hatchery they will be snapped by their heads into a spinning debeaker – a portion of their sensitive beaks removed by a laser. Workers toss and rummage through them before they are placed 100 per crowded box and shipped across the country.
The callous disregard for animal welfare at this facility is not isolated. In fact, the conditions documented during this investigation are completely standard and acceptable within the commercial egg industry. Referred to by Hy-Line corporate leaders as mere “genetic products,” these chicks are treated just as they are viewed – as inanimate objects, rather than the sentient creatures they are.
Those numbers are pretty staggering. One way Mercy For Animals would like to address the issue is by placing a label on all those egg cartons depicting idyllic chicken life:
Eating habits would change quite a bit if there was absolute honesty and transparency regarding how food is produced. Let’s add that label suggestion to my suggested tuna label.