Forced Molting Campaign Update: Keep Up the Pressure!

Photo By: Mercy For Animals

Since we were founded in 1990, a key campaign of United Poultry Concerns has been to expose and eliminate the cruel egg industry practice of depriving hens of food for up to three weeks to manipulate the economics of egg production, known as forced molting. Until we began our campaign, this cruelty was buried in poultry industry literature. There, the link between starving the hens and Salmonella in hens and their eggs was acknowledged; but it wasn't until we launched a major publicity effort that the egg industry reacted.

In January 2004, UPC mailed 2072 petition signatures to United Egg Producers, the US industry's trade group, urging producers to stop starving their hens, making a total of 9528 signatures that we have gathered and mailed from people who are appalled by the practice of depriving hens of food and of falsely comparing this blatant cruelty to the natural molting of birds to maintain good plumage. Naturally molting birds do not stop eating.

Forced molting is done to extend the "economically useful life" of laying hens to cut the cost of having to replace existing flocks with new birds. Despite the huge mortality that results, the egg industry finds it cheaper to "recycle" the survivors of a forced molt than to raise new groups of hens each time the existing flocks, exhausted from relentless egg laying, start to break down. When force-molted hens start laying again, they lay fewer but larger eggs, causing them even more pain and misery in having to expel those huge eggs. A "Jumbo" or "Extra Large" egg embodies the utmost cruelty and misery inflicted on hens exploited for their eggs.

In response to our letter and signatures, United Egg Producers president Al Pope replied in February 2004 that, based on the recommendations of its scientific Advisory Committee, UEP has urged its members to "change their molting practices to the non-feed withdrawal method as quickly as possible."

What Can I Do?
  • Please go vegan, and write to United Egg Producers. Explain that while you are pleased that they are responding to public outrage over forced molting, you request written assurance that the US egg industry is eliminating the starvation of hens once and for all, and is feeding the hens nourishing food at all times. In addition, you want to know what effort the industry is making to replace battery cages with cage-free living conditions for hens. Urge them not to invest in "enriched cages" (see our review of How Switzerland Got Rid of Battery Cages in this issue) but to invest in cage-free keeping systems that allow hens to walk, perch, sun bathe, dustbathe, nest and socialize com fortably. Request a written response to your questions and concerns.

    Albert E. Pope, President
    United Egg Producers
    1720 Windward Concourse, Suite 230
    Alpharetta, GA 30005
    Ph: 770-360-9220. Fax: 770-360-7058