United Poultry Concerns
Promoting the compassionate and respectful
treatment of domestic fowl

PO Box 150 • Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
(757) 678-7875 • FAX (757) 678-5070

3 June 2003

Karen Davis 757-678-7875

United Poultry Concerns Urges the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to oppose the forced molting of laying birds. Veterinarians and others are encouraged to write to the AVMA.

Bruce Little, DVM, Executive Vice President
American Veterinary Medical Association
1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360
Ph: 847-925-8070
Fax: 847-925-1329

Machipongo, Va - If you are a veterinarian or have a professional relationship with a veterinarian, please ask him or her to write a letter to the AVMA requesting a change in the AVMA’s policy statement regarding the forced molting of laying birds. Forced molting, a practice used by 75% - 80% of the US egg industry, involves the intentional withholding of ALL food from hens for 5-21 days (typically 10-14) to force a molt. In commercial terms, a molt refers to the forced cessation of egg production and shedding of feathers by food deprivation in flocks of hens intended to be used for another laying cycle comprising the survivors of the forced molt.

Force-molted hens are intentionally starved until they lose 30% of their body weight, causing loss of liver and muscle mass and increased susceptibility to Salmonella enteritidis infection. Forced molting, as opposed to natural molting, is done to manipulate the economics of egg production.

At its July 2003 meeting in Denver, CO, the AVMA’s Reference Committee will hear a resolution presented by the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) recommending that all hens used in commercial egg production receive fresh water and nutritionally adequate food on a daily basis and that the AVMA oppose forced molting when it involves the withholding of water or food or employs some other means of causing a molt which results in malnutrition or other ill health.

Last year, the AVMA adopted a resolution that opposes prolonged total food deprivation but allows for “intermittent feeding” and “diets of low nutrient density” designed to force hens to molt. http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/sep02/020901d.asp.

The resolution erroneously refers to forced, or “induced,” molting as a process that simulates natural molting, and promotes more research instead of condemning this well-researched inhumane practice. Regarding the AVMA’s assertion that forced molting simulates natural molting, Dr. Ian J.H. Duncan, Professor of Poultry Ethology, Chair in Animal Welfare, Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Guelph, states:

Nothing could be further from the truth. Under natural conditions, domestic fowl reduce their food intake but do not stop eating (a) when they are incubating a clutch of eggs, and (b) when shortening day-length pushes them out of reproductive condition. In this latter case, when birds stop laying, they go into a natural molt and feathers are gradually replaced over most of the body surface and this is a prolonged process. Natural molting is thus triggered by hormonal changes following a shortening of day-length in contrast to forced molting in which food is removed in order to force the bird out of reproductive condition. . . . [Moreover,] “intermittent” feeding, referred to in the position statement, is not used to induce molt and, in any case, is wide open to abuse since the deprivation period could vary from hours to weeks. (Quoted in AVAR Directions, Winter 2003. http://avar.org/avar_winter_2003_directions.pdf

Non-veterinarians are encouraged to write polite letters to the AVMA with the understanding that the AVMA is influenced primarily by requests from its members.

Please click here to view UPC’s 2003 Report to the AVMA, “The Animal Welfare and Food Safety Issues Associated With the Forced Molting of Laying Birds”: http://www.upc-online.org/molting/52703.htm

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. http://www.upc-online.org

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