Fall/Winter1998 Poultry Press Forced Molting
AVMA May Set Welfare
Precedent for Millions of Hens

Veterinary Group Responds To UPC/AVAR Pressure
At its November 4th meeting, the Animal Welfare Committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) voted to revise its current position statement endorsing the deliberate starvation practice by the U.S. egg industry known as forced molting. Each year the egg industry deliberately deprives millions of hens of all food for an average of 1-2 weeks, until they lose 25 to 35 percent of their body weight. The hens die during and after the molt. A manager for the country's biggest egg company, Cal-Maine, told UPC: "Usually we lose anywhere from 500 to 1000 hens the first day we put them back on feed. The [excretory] ammonia in the house during this period is so bad we usually wear masks in order to breathe. It is almost unbearable to us."

The workers get sick going in and out of the building. Imagine the hens, trapped and starved, forced to breathe the toxic fumes from their own waste in the no-ventilation, 88 degree F prison. Imagine them inhaling the dust and feathers that a molting researcher said (referring to his laboratory at North Carolina State University) is "like being in the middle of a giant pillow fight." Make that a giant, dirty pillow fight.


Will this soon be untrue?

AVMA Gets Forced-Molting Shock: "Unprecedented"

Daily Herald, Chicago, IL, Tues. Sept. 29, 1998. (Excerpt from photo-feature article) "People often view veterinarians as defenders of animal rights. A giant chicken . . . claimed otherwise Monday. That animal rights activist, and nine other members of Warrenville-based Illinois Animal Action, Inc., spent the lunch hour picketing the American Veterinary Medical Association's headquarters in Schaumburg [Il]. Carrying signs that read "AVMA Prescribes Cruelty" and "Eliminate Forced Molting," the protesters aimed to convince drivers . . . that the veterinary group is condoning the starvation of chickens so they can produce more eggs.

"'Chickens don't pay vet bills, so the AVMA is supporting the industry's motives,' said IAA President Debbie Leahy. . . .

"AVMA Executive Vice President Bruce W. Little described the afternoon's events as unprecedented. Little knew of no time in the associations 135-year history when people picketed its headquarters. . . [S]aid Palatine's [Il activist] Jim Dunn, "but once upon a time everybody thought the world was flat."


UPC wishes to thank Debbie Leahy and Illinois Animal Action for conducting this unprecedented, high-profile protest demonstration. For more information, including the group's excellent brochure, Starving Hens for Profit Has Got to Stop! contact Illinois Animal Action, PO Box 507, Warrenville, IL 60555; 630-393-2935.

Reflecting its economic and career ties, the AVMA has endorsed forced molting. While the association cannot regulate the egg industry, its sanctions have a strong influence on the industry, which has been using the AVMA's position to defend the denial of food to hens in order to manipulate the price of eggs. (Cal-Maine manager: "The egg market is the determining factor when we molt and get rid of a flock.") It's time for the bad guys to be the ones asking, "What's up, Doc?"

United Poultry Concerns and the Association of Veterinarians launched the campaign among veterinarians and animal protectionists to urge the AVMA to oppose forced molting. The AVMA has received thousands of requests for a position change, including more than 100 animal protection groups. The International Head of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), David Bowles, wrote to the AVMA urging it "to revise its current position on forced moulting to oppose the practice on welfare grounds."

As we go to press, we await the AVMA's decision whether it will adopt the Animal Welfare Committee's recommendations and news of what those as yet undisclosed recommendations are.

Fall/Winter 1998 Poultry Press Forced Molting