Spring Summer 2005 Poultry Press << Previous - Next >>

The Battle Over Welfare Vs. Rights

Photo By: Zoe Weil

"Are we really representing a caged hen's wishes when we say that she would reject a touch of comfort short of total liberation? And who, under any circumstances, would reject a less inhumane death for themselves or for someone they loved?" - Karen Davis, Satya magazine, April 2005

A welfare philosophy that supports exploiting animals "humanely" is totally different from a rights philosophy that supports efforts to reduce animal suffering in pursuit of animal liberation. Yet some animal advocates insist that working for welfare reforms is wrong regardless.

Granted, all welfare reforms have risks. For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association, in formulating its Position Statement on Production of Foie Gras this year, added the word "mechanical" to the proposed resolution: "Resolved, that the AVMA opposes the practice of mechanical force feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras because of the adverse effects on the birds' health and welfare associated with this practice."

Why did the AVMA insert "mechanical"? Because while the word "mechanical" rules out stressful feeding tubes, it does not rule out feeding ducks and geese high-energy rations that produce a liver that in sedentary birds would still be abnormally fat. In other words, as a concession to industry, the AVMA would allow passive overfeeding while opposing the much more abusive practice of actively ramming food down birds' throats.

In another example, the U.S. trade group United Egg Producers sought to undercut activists' efforts to stop forced molting by claiming that if they couldn't molt their hens by depriving them of food to regulate the
economics of egg production, they'd have to replace flocks more frequently, doubling the number of birds and thus the amount of suffering overall. But this didn't happen, as sustained activist pressure brought United Egg Producers to encourage the use of a molt diet "rather than the traditional practice of withholding food."

Thanks to our 12-year campaign, force-molting hens by starving them is on the way out. Last year, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) adopted a policy opposing molting hens by taking away their food; and in March 2005, Gene Gregory, Senior Vice President for United Egg Producers, announced that within the next few months, UEP's "Animal Care Certified" program will likely require "certified care" producers to feed their hens instead of starving them.

Does this mean that the 300 million hens rotting in U.S. battery-cage hellhouses are now receiving humane care? Of course not. What it does mean, however, is that billions of hens in the U.S. will henceforth no longer be starved in their cages, and that persistent, well-designed welfare campaigns can mitigate animal suffering, even as we work to modify consumer behavior by getting people to go vegan.

Urge United Egg Producers to require that "Animal Care Certified" egg producers house their hens in cage-free environments and stop debeaking them.

Albert E. Pope, President
United Egg Producers
1720 Windward Concourse, Suite 230
Alpharetta, GA 30005
Phone: 770-360-9220.
Fax: 770-360-7058
Email: info@unitedegg.org

Spring Summer 2005 Poultry Press << Previous - Next >>