Chances are, you won’t look at eggs the same way, if you’ve seen the undercover video we debuted today. It’s shot by an animal rights activist with Mercy For Animals who got a job at one of the state’s largest egg producers, Gemperle Enterprises in Turlock. The video shows what are called “battery cages” – battery, as in a row or bank of something, not the power supply. The activist caught workers being very rough with the hens, both on the way into their cages and out after two years of laying eggs. As many as eight hens spend most of their lives in a single, small cage. There’s no room to even spread their wings, much less engage in other normal behavior, such as foraging or dust-bathing. Their beaks have to be clipped so they won’t cannibalize each other. Further, the activist caught a worker stomping a hen and a manager not doing a good job wringing a hen’s neck – she was still alive minutes later.
As a shopper, if a carton of eggs doesn’t say “cage free” or “free range”, they come from a battery cage. No question, the alternatives cost more, and it’s up to you whether concern for the hens is worth the premium you’ll pay. If you’d like more information, here’s a cost analysis from a U.C. Davis poultry specialist.
All this is coming to light as the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act heads for a November vote. You can read the ballot initiative here.
By the way, the man who took the undercover video today has been busy, and he’s already at work on his next assignment out of state. The animal rights group with which he works tells me, the activist is cooperating with HBO for a special to air this fall. They are apparently focusing on his undercover work, for all the different animal rights issues he covers.