By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns
A video released by The Humane Society of the United States on January 5 (see
Spent Hen Slaughter Exposé) shows what happens to millions of egg-industry hens in their final hours of suffering a life that words like horrible,
miserable and appalling are too feeble to describe. One has to steel oneself to look at the
scenes at the Butterfield spent hen slaughterhouse in Minnesota. If you’re like me, the first time you click on the link, you might turn down the
sound and look at the video with eyes semi-averted from the screen. Life doesn’t get any worse than this, and neither does death. And it’s all
for omelets and fried eggs.
Watching the video, you catch sight of a hen’s face and her living eyes that are about to be pulsed with volts of electrical shock. You turn up the
volume and feel the agony in your gut and the sickness in your heart, even as you realize you cannot possibly imagine the feelings these hens are carrying
inside themselves, the accumulation of their experience with human beings. As the video winds down, the narrator says, “You can help reduce the suffering of chickens on factory farms simply by eating less meat.”
This video is being advertised as the first footage from a slaughter plant designed for spent hens. People need to see this. We all need to know, show and
tell others what eating eggs and egg ingredients means for hens regardless of whether they lived in barren battery cages, “enriched” battery
cages, cage-free organic compounds, or wherever they came from on their way to this final place of execution.
Instead, the narrator blandly suggests eating less meat from factory farms.
The art of persuasive discourse teaches that when we present an ethical problem to an audience, we follow up with a positive, liberating, inspiring, and
doable solution – “Here is what you can do to help stop this cruelty and help these hens. You don’t have to wait, you can start today.
Please start today. Here’s how.” The goal is to solve the problem and empower the person – who is very upset and charged with a desire to
take action – to be confident that she or he can actually do something commensurate with the situation just witnessed. “What can I do to help
these birds?” What is our answer?
In the case of the Butterfield hen slaughter video, the first shock comes when the narrator doesn’t even mention the hens or their eggs in the How
You Can Help part. Instead of something like: “To help end this cruelty, please visit Eggfree.com for delicious egg-free recipes and cooking
ideas,” the message drains out in generic terminology and flaccid advice.
To state the obvious: This message is not inspiring, invigorating or empowering. It does not address or facilitate the urge to do something truly
meaningful to help the hens. It does not seize the moment. It says that neither the hens nor their suffering matters enough to do much for them. Their
plight isn’t urgent. They aren’t that important. Just reduce your meat consumption. And if you don’t, okay. Not a word about eggs.
When people are told they don’t have to do much, most will do even less. The part of the person that wants to act SIGNIFICANTLY is undercut by the
part that wants to rest easy. The “experts” are telling you to relax, it’s okay. Watching the Butterfield video I felt overwhelmingly
sick and sad, but when the narrator bypassed the hens and lamely advised eating less factory farm meat, I felt that our movement needs a new lease on life.
Get Active! www.upc-online.org/alerts
Help! I don’t want to be harmed “humanely”!