Spring/Summer 1998 Poultry Press

First-Of-Its-Kind Petition Demands that the Starvation of Hens For Days and Weeks at a Time Be Stopped

On April 1, 1998 United Poultry Concerns and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights formally petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to eliminate the deliberate starvation practice by the U.S. egg industry known as forced molting.

Forced molting--in which all food is withheld from laying hens for 1 to 2 weeks--has been shown to stress the immune system of these birds so severely that it promotes a systemic disease in the form of Salmonella enteritidis. UPC and AVAR petitioned the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration that this combination of cruelty and disease warrants the elimination of forced molting in the United States, as was done in Great Britain in 1987.

Forced molting has been found to depress the cellular immune response and increase the severity of a concurrent intestinal Salmonella enteritidis infection, creating an actual disease state in the alimentary tract of force-molted hens, according to USDA research immunologist Peter Holt.

"Hens used for egg production are unprotected against the cruelest practices," said Dr. Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns and Dr. Nedim Buyukmihci, president of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and professor of veterinary ophthalmology at the University of California-Davis, in their News Release announcing the petition.

"The starvation and the sickness are linked," they said. "Transmittable diseases are inevitable when you consider that there is not a single federal law in this country governing how animals are treated on the farm. This situation needs to change and forced molting is the place to start."

Copies of our 16-page report on which the petition is based are available from United Poultry Concerns for $5.00. The report is posted on UPC's website at www.envirolink.org/arrs/upc.

Petition Sent to the USDA/FDA and List of recepients

Sample of Self-Reported Results from UPC Survey of U.S. Egg Industry on Forced Molting

What Can I Do?

What Can I Do?

What Can I Do?

  • Please write letters. The birds being starved--forced molted--in their cages by the egg industry are driven by their desperation and misery to pluck and eat each others' feathers to obtain nutrients. The caged, debeaked hens are being starved and plucked at the same time. Meanwhile the pathogen-ridden force-molted feathers, in addition to being plucked and eaten by the starving birds, are floating, falling and hanging in the air, sticking to the excrement, which is everywhere, and being inhaled by the hens trapped in the facility.

    I. Our petition requesting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to eliminate the forced molting of laying hens was filed by the FDA on April 14, 1998 under docket number 98P-0203/CP. Please urge the FDA to grant our petition to eliminate the forced molting of laying hens. When you write to the FDA, include docket number 98P-0203/CP for petition identification. Write to:

    Dockets Management Branch
    Food and Drug Administration
    Department of Health and Human Services
    12420 Parklawn Drive, Room, 1-23
    Rockville, MD 20857

    II. On April 17, 1998, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acknowledged receipt of our petition stating, "We will distribute copies of your letter and petition to members of the USDA Farm Animal Well-Being Task Group for review and discussion at its next meeting and advise you of any recommended followup to your petition."

    Please write to the APHIS/USDA and urge them to grant our petition. Ask them to advise you in writing regarding the action taken by the USDA Farm Animal Well-Being Task Force to eliminate the forced molting of laying hens. Write to:

    Dr. Ron DeHaven
    Acting Deputy Administrator
    USDA-APHIS Animal Care
    4700 River Road, Unit 84
    Riverdale, MD 20737

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