De-Beaking

Of all the practices that convey the casual cruelty and industrialization of the modern livestock industry, cutting the beaks off young chicks with a hot knife machine has to be one of the most revelatory.

Whenever people ask my why they can’t eat eggs from “happy chickens,” de-beaking (which is used on cage-free, organic, free-range, you name it, chickens) is one of the reasons I give. Tossing newborn male chicks alive into a grinder, because they have no value in the egg industry, is another.

You don’t need to watch much of this to get the idea.

Here’s a fuller explanation:

The debeaking machine depicted in this video is exactly the same as those used on U.S. farms, but because the video was made as a marketing demo by a company that sells the machines, it provides a fuller picture of what actually happens to hens during the debeaking process. Debeaking, also known euphemistically as “beak trimming,” is a painful procedure in which ½ to ⅔ of each bird’s sensitive beak is seared off with a hot blade, without anesthetic. While farmers will often dismiss the practice as harmless by comparing it to clipping our own fingernails, chickens’ beaks are the avian equivalent not of human fingernails, but fingertips— loaded with blood vessels, pain receptors, and specialized sensory nerves that facilitate food detection in the wild. Debeaking is so painful for these birds that some die of shock on the spot; others die of starvation or dehydration because using their beaks is so excruciating, or their mutilations are so disfiguring that they cannot properly grasp and swallow food.

The more you know….

Influenzas Compared

There are a lot of worries about the recent outbreak of H7N9 virus in China. Want to know how it stacks up against other deadly viruses when it comes to what species it can infect, and how deadly it is?

Or course you do, and, happily, there is an infographic for that. And it should be enough to make you re-think the human relationship with pigs and chickens (click image for full size):