Debeaking Poultry: The Need for Federal Legislation Prohibiting the Inhumane Practice
by Karen Davis
American poultry and egg producers using battery cages and
crowded floor systems remove one half to two thirds of the birds'
beaks to reduce "cannibalistic" pecking. Cannibalism--compulsive
picking, not eating--is an abnormal behavior of domestic fowl
kept in close, crowded confinement. It results from the abnormal
restriction of the normal span of activities of a healthy,
Debeaking ("beak trimming") has been scientifically
demonstrated to cause severe pain in the sensitive beak of a bird
and lifelong behavioral impairment. Between the horn and bone of
the beak is a thin layer of highly sensitive soft tissue. The
hot blade used in debeaking cuts through this complex horn, bone,
and sensitive tissue causing severe pain and the formation of
tumors in the healed beak stump. Behavioral studies show that
debeaked chickens are unable to eat, drink, and preen properly,
and that they exhibit behavioral disorders associated with
chronic pain and depression. The 1991 review published by Dr.
Michael C. Appleby on the suffering of hens in battery cages
states that "The main injury caused by humans, knowingly rather
than accidently, is beak trimming. It is now known to cause
pain, in the short term and probably also in the long term, in a
way similar to other amputations." In Britain and the
Netherlands plans are currently underway to ban the debeaking of
birds, described in the 1991 British Farm Animal Welfare Council
Report on the Welfare of Laying Hens in Colony Systems as "a
serious welfare insult to the hen . . . that should not be
necessary in a well-managed system where the hens' requirements
are fully met."
Beak amputation of chickens and turkeys is an inhumane
substitute for the proper management of these species of birds.
Debeaking is not like trimming one's fingernails. It is a
serious welfare insult to birds that should be prohibited by law.
For more information see the
UPC Factsheet on debeaking.
For more information contact:
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
(Debeaking Poultry: The Need for Federal Legislation Prohibiting the Inhumane Practice]