Free from harm

What's wrong with eggs?

Male chicks are most commonly suffocated or ground up alive.

1. The global egg industry destroys 6,000,000,000 newborn male chicks every year. (1)

2. Male chicks born to egg-laying hens can not lay eggs, and are not the breed used for meat. Hatcheries separate males from females through a process known as “sexing.” Since males are worthless to the egg industry, they are disposed of like trash, either suffocated to death or ground up alive in large industrial macerators.

3. Eggs sold under organic, free-range, and humane labels, and even chicks sold to backyard chicken keepers, also have their origins in these killing hatcheries. (2)

4. Newborn chicks are more intelligent, alert, and aware of their environment than human toddlers, according to recent scientific studies. (3) In fact, many traits that were previously thought to be exclusive to human / primate communication, cognition and social behavior have now been discovered in chickens.

Free From Harm rescue, Sweet Pea, with severe egg yolk peritonitis, died at just 4.

5. Female chicks are sent to egg farms, where, due to decades of genetic manipulation and selective breeding, they produce 250 to 300 eggs per year. In nature, wild hens lay only 10 to 15 eggs annually. (4,5) Like all birds, they lay eggs only during breeding season and only for the purpose of reproducing.

6. This unnaturally high rate of egg-laying results in frequent disease and mortality.

7. 95% of all egg-laying hens in the U.S. – nearly 300 million birds – spend their lives in battery cages so small they cannot even stretch their wings. (6) Packed in at 5–10 birds per cage, they can only stand or crouch on the cages’ hard wires, which cut their feet painfully. In these maddening conditions, hens will peck one another from stress, causing injury and even death.

8. Rather than give them more room, farmers cut off a portion of their sensitive beaks without painkiller. A chicken’s beak is loaded with nerve endings, more sensitive than a human fingertip. Many birds die of shock on the spot.

Caged hens in an “enriched cage colony system” in Europe. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

9. Most hens on “cage-free” or “free range” operations are also debeaked, as these labels allow producers to confine thousands of birds inside crowded sheds. (7)

10. In a natural environment, chickens can live 10 to 15 years, but chickens bred for egg-laying are slaughteredgassed or even thrown live onto “dead piles” at just 12 to 18 months of age when their egg production declines. (8)

11. During transport, chickens are roughly stuffed into crates and suffer broken legs and wings, lacerations, hemorrhage, dehydration, heat stroke, hypothermia, and heart failure; millions die before reaching the slaughterhouse. (9)

In the “kill cone” method, considered the most “humane” form of slaughter, fully conscious birds are stuffed down cones and have their necks slit while they thrash and cry out.

12. At the slaughterhouse, most chickens bred for egg-laying are still conscious when their throats are slit, and their hearts are still beating as the blood drains out of their mouths. (10) Millions of chickens worldwide are still conscious when plunged into the scalding tank for feather removal. They drown while being boiled alive.

What Can You Do?

There are delicious and “just like the real thing” plant-based alternatives for every egg dish, from scrambles and omelets to quiche and sunny side ups. It’s also very easy to replace eggs in baking. Please share information about egg and dairy production with others, and encourage them to go vegan. You can learn more little-known facts about eggs and the hens bred to lay them at our official egg page, Eggs: What Are You Really Eating?

Vegan sausage and eggless sunny side ups from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook. We have made these sunnies several times and can’t believe how indistinguishable in flavor they are from egg-based sunny side ups. They are very easy to make.

(1) “How to Do Animal Rights: Chicken Statistics,” accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://animalethics.org.uk/i-ch7-2-chickens.html

(2) Rodriguez, Sheila. “The Morally Informed Consumer: Examining Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Labels,” Temple Journal of Science, Technology & Environmental Law,no. 51 (2011). Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.animallaw.info/articles/arus30tempjscitechenvtll51.htm

(3) Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10129124/Chickens-cleverer-than-toddlers.html

(4) “Small and Backyard Flocks: Frequently Asked Questions,” University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Poultry Extension. Accessed 2/11/2014 from: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/smallflocks/FAQ.html

(5) “Unlike most domestic hens, who have been selectively bred to lay eggs year-round, wild fowl breed and lay primarily in spring. The Red Jungle Fowl lays 10-15 eggs per year, and the average size of each brood is 4-6 chicks.” Cited in “About Chickens,” Humane Society of the United States, accessed 2/11/2014 from: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/about_chickens.pdf

(6) “Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks, 2010 Edition,” United Egg Producers. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.unitedegg.org/information/pdf/UEP_2010_Animal_Welfare_Guidelines.pdf

(7) “Deciphering Humane Labels and Loopholes,” Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Accessed 7/21/2014

(8) “The Welfare of Animals in the Egg Industry,” Humane Society of the United States. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/welfare_egg.pdf

(9) “The Welfare of Animals in the Egg Industry,” Humane Society of the United States. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/welfare_egg.pdf

(10) Gail Eisnitz, Slaughterhouse, Prometheus Books: Amherst, New York, 1997, p.166.

What's wrong with dairy?

Male dairy calves killed for veal are confined to lonely stalls and slaughtered at just a few months of age.

1. 21,000,000 dairy calves are slaughtered for veal or cheap beef every year globally. (1)

2. Like all mammals, cows must give birth in order to make milk. Like human mothers, they carry their babies for nine months, then begin to lactate for the sole purpose of nourishing their young.

3. Due to extensive biological manipulation, today’s dairy cows produce up to 12 times more milk than they would naturally produce to feed a calf. (2)

Photo: Twyla Francois

4. Even so, virtually all dairy calves are stolen from their mothers within hours of birth in order to maximize profit. 97% of newborn dairy calves are forcibly removed from their mothers within the first 24 hours. (3) The rest are removed in a matter of days. On so-called humane dairy farms, cows are often taken within the first hour of birth as separation of mother and calf is considered less stressful when they have not been allowed to bond (see video clip below).

5. To keep them lactating at maximum yields, cows are artificially and repeatedly and forcibly impregnated year after year. The constant cycle of forced pregnancy and birth creates a huge surplus of calves.

Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated once a year to keep them at peak lactation. Artificial insemination involves invasive, nonconsensual rectal and vaginal penetration. Photo: organicfarmer.org

6. Some female calves will join the milking herd. They typically spend the first 2 to 3 months of life confined in lonely hutches, fed a diet of milk replacer while humans drink the milk intended for them. (4)

Calves on this small and so-called humane dairy farm are taken away from their mothers within the first hour of birth. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

7. Whether on factory farms, “family” farms, or small, humane-certified farms, male calves and surplus females are sold to be slaughtered for veal or cheap beef. The veal industry would not exist without the dairy industry. The following “high welfare” slaughter of “humanely-raised, pastured” dairy calves was openly filmed for public television.

8. Over 90% of U.S. dairy cows are confined in primarily indoor operations, with more than 60% tethered by the neck inside barren stalls, unable to perform the most basic behaviors essential to their well-being. (5)

9. Trapped in a cycle of forced impregnation, perpetual lactation and near constant confinement, most dairy cows’ overworked bodies begin producing less milk at around 4 to 5 years of age, at which point they are slaughtered. (6) In natural conditions, cows can live 20 to 25 years. (7)

10. Of the 9 million dairy cows in the U.S., 3 million are slaughtered each year at only a fraction of their natural lifespan. (8) Their worn out bodies become ground beef and restaurant hamburgers. (9)

Cows are highly sensitive, affectionate and gentle, forming deep friendships and family bonds. Photo: Farm Sanctuary

What You Can Do

Don’t buy the humane mythFeel-good dairy labels, like all humane labels, are merely so much window dressing. Eliminating dairy from your diet doesn’t have to be difficult; in fact, it can be downright delicious. Check out our Guide to Going Dairy Free for tips and recommendations on remarkable plant-based milks, cheeses, creams, yogurts and more. And please remember: all dairy farming depends on the exploitation and destruction of motherhood. To learn more about the injustices perpetrated even on small and so-called humane dairy farms, see our feature: The Spiked Nose Ring: A Symbol for All Dairy Cruelty. Educate others by sharing information about dairy production with them.

(1) “Calf Slaughter by Country in 1,000 Head,” Index Mundi: Animal Numbers. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?commodity=cattle&graph=calf-slaughter

(2) Lyons DT, Freeman AE and Kuck AL. 1991. Genetics of health traits in Holstein cattle. Journal of Dairy Science 74 (3): 1092-100

(3) “Colostrum Feeding and Management on U.S. Dairy Operations, 1991-2007,” USDA, Feb. 2009. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/dairy/downloads/dairy07/Dairy07_is_Colostrum.pdf

(4) “Ag 101: Dairy Lifecycle Production Phases,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/dairyphases.html

(5) “The Welfare of Cows in the Dairy Industry,” Humane Society of the United States. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/hsus-the-welfare-of-cows-in-the-dairy-industry.pdf

(6) Albert DeVries, “Cow longevity economics – the cost benefit of keeping the cow in the herd,” delaval.com. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.delaval.com/en/-/Dairy-knowledge-and-advice/Cow-Longevity/Scientists-view-on-cow-longevity/Cow-longevity-economics—the-cost-benefit-of-keeping-the-cow-in-the-herd/

(7) Nowak RM. 1997. Walker’s Mammals of the World 5.1. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

(8) “Livestock Slaughter 2013 Summary,” USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2014. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/lsan0414.pdf

(9) “A Value Chain Analysis of the U.S. Beef and Dairy Industries,” Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness, Feb. 2009. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.cggc.duke.edu/environment/valuechainanalysis/CGGC_BeefDairyReport_2-16-09.pdf

What's wrong with poultry?

Industry Facts About Chickens Raised for Meat

1. 51.4 billion chickens are artificially hatched, fattened up and slaughtered as 42-day-old babies every year globally. A chicken’s normal lifespan is 10–15 years. (1)

2. Chickens and turkeys together represent 99% of land animals slaughtered for food in the United States. �(2)

3. Chickens bred for meat are arguably the most genetically manipulated of all animals, forced to grow 65 times faster than their bodies normally would, and the industry continually seeks to increase their growth rate. (3)

4. Chickens are housed in giant, overcrowded sheds, where they are packed in by the thousands and forced to stand and sit on filthy, manure-laden flooring, which is typically cleaned out only every 2 to 4 years. “Free range” is a meaningless term in this sense, since almost all chickens raised for meat are uncaged.

5. Heart failure afflicts chickens at a rate of at least 4.7% and is attributed to genetic manipulation, but this figure only covers birds within their first 42 days of life. (4) The rate of heart failure increases in the weeks to come. Two of Free from Harm’s rescues died of heart failure in their first 3 to 4 months of life. Their baby hearts cannot keep up with their adult-sized bodies.

Lame chicken in intense pain. Photo by Animal Liberation NSW from their undercover investigation at a Red Lea Broiler Farm in NSW in October 2012.

6. Every year globally, at least 12.5 billion chickens experience painful leg problems, including lameness, due to their breeding for rapid growth. (5)

7. “Ammonia burn” and respiratory diseases and fatalities are also common from exposure to high concentrations of ammonia emanating from large accumulations of feces. (6)

8. After six weeks, chickens are cornered by “catchers” who often come in the dark and in the middle of the night, grabbing terrified chickens by their feet and roughly stuffing them into crates which are loaded onto transport trucks with forklifts. In the process they suffer from broken legs and wings, lacerations, hemorrhage, dehydration, heat stroke, hypothermia, and heart failure. Millions die before even reaching the slaughterhouse.

Chicken-catching machines vacuum up chickens and blow them through to a conveyor belt or directly into cages as shown here.

9. Chicken-catching machines resembling giant street sweepers were introduced in the 1990s. These 6-ton machines vacuum up 7,000 birds an hour with rubber finger-like projections that place them on a conveyer belt and force them into crates. (7)

Chickens in crates on their way to slaughter. Photo: Anita Krajnic, taken at a Toronto Chicken Save vigil.

10. Jammed inside these crates, chickens may travel up to 12 hours to the slaughterhouse through extreme temperatures and weather conditions without food or water. Upon arrival, chickens may languish in these crates for an additional 12 hours before being unloaded. �(8)

11. Chickens too sick or injured to enter the food supply are dumped into large mass graves alive, as exposed in this video footage from an undercover investigation at a poultry farm, conducted by one of the leading farmed animal advocacy organizations, Compassion Over Killing. (9)

12. At the slaughterhouse, chickens are not stunned, but shackled and dragged upside down, fully conscious, through electrified water that paralyzes their muscles so that their feathers will come off more easily after they are dead. ��

13. Millions of chickens and turkeys are scalded alive after their throats are cut. Former slaughterhouse worker Virgil Butler reports that in the scald tank, “the chickens scream, kick, and their eyeballs pop out of their heads.” �

14. So-called “humane” slaughter alternatives include the “kill cone,” decompression, and gas chambers. The kill cone is the most barbaric and cruel form of killing imaginable; chickens are stuffed head first down a long funnel. Their heads are pulled through a small opening, and their necks are slashed as they thrash and scream in agony and blood flows out of their mouths.

15. Chickens and turkeys go to slaughter lame, sick, and in pain. They are infected with Salmonella, Campylobacter, E coli, and other bacteria that make people sick with foodborne poisons. Since poultry products are the main source of foodborne illness in people, due to the filthy conditions in which they are raised, slaughtered chickens are soaked in toxic chemicals which are consumed along with their flesh.

16. In less than 60 years, the number of broiler chickens raised yearly has skyrocketed 1,400%, from 580 million in the 1950s to nearly 9 billion today. (10) Even with such an immense increase in their exploitation, chickens bred for their flesh still have virtually no rights or laws to protect them.

17. Chickens can now be killed at a rate of 140 chickens per minute (up from 130), and slaughter plants can police themselves even more, making them more efficient killing machines with less government interference than ever. (11)

Edith, a sweet, innocent baby we rescued, who fell off a transport truck on her way to the slaughterhouse.

Now that you have the basics on how chickens are routinely used and abused in agriculture, check out what they are really like in their natural environment. What we’ve learned about the chicken brain and behavior in just the last 10 to 15 years is truly remarkable and explodes the “bird brain” stereotypes that have been so pervasive for far too long. See our comprehensive report, Chicken Behavior: An Overview of Recent Science.

(1) “Have We Been Lied To” brochure, p. 5, published by Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM)

(2) United Poultry Concerns

(3) Tom Horton, “42-Day Wonders,” Washingtonian, republished under permission by UPC

(4) Poultry welfare in developing countries, pgs. 1–2, Poultry Development Review, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

(5) Ibid.

(6) Ibid.

(7) Poultry in Motion: With Invention, Chicken Catching Goes High-Tech, The Wall Street Journal. June 4, 2003

(8) Chicken transport, United Poultry Concerns

(9) Pilgrim’s Shame: Birds Buried Alive, Compassion Over Killing website

(10) Big Chicken: Pollution and Industrial Poultry Production in America, PEW Charitable Trust website

(11) New Rules Say Poultry Plants Can Conduct Own Checks, New York Times website

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