🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Eggs with a conscience

    From beasts we scorn as soulless,
    In forest, field and den,
    The cry goes up to witness
    The soullessness of men.
    ~M. Frida Hartley

    Free-range eggs are laid by happy hens that roam freely around outdoors in the day and snuggle up in their barn at night. Hens that are fed a vegetarian diet of grains and pulses with no animal by-products or fishmeal. Happy hens who are free to chase bugs, graze on the grass and have regular sand baths to rid themselves of lice and fleas.

    The benefits of free-range eggs are numerous, like the fact that these eggs are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Omega-3 fatty acids are not naturally produced by the human body so it's essential for us to include them as a part of a balanced diet. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that also protects the omega-3 fats. But for me the biggest benefit of free-range eggs is the fact that they are produced under natural, non-cruel conditions.

    Battery cage hens - Pic from "Say no to battery chickens and eggs"

    In the battery cage system (the dominant form of egg farming in the world), the hens are confined in cages with a sloping floor so that their eggs roll away in order to prevent faecal contamination of the eggs.

    The cages are normally stacked on top of each other in houses with no access to natural
    light. The houses use various automated conveyor belt systems to bring the hens food, capture their waste and take away their eggs.

    Because of the cramped conditions (sometimes less than an A4 sheet of paper per hen – for life!), alternative farming methods for eggs have increased in popularity. These include barn, free-range and organic (also free range, but with the additional requirement of organically produced feed).

    Freedom to behave naturally (one of the 5 freedoms that all animals should receive according to the Farm Animal Welfare Council in the UK) is one of the greatest welfare concerns for the world’s egg laying chickens.

    Research has shown that hens have a strong preference for laying their eggs in a nest and are highly motivated to perform nesting behaviour. Hens also show a strong preference for a littered floor both for pecking and scratching and for dust-bathing, and a preference to perch, especially at night.

    Battery caging prevents all of this as the hens are kept in barren cages without perches or litter, and are so confined for most of their lives that they cannot even flap their wings. I have bought battery cage chickens that have come to the end of their egg-laying life and upon releasing them in the hen house, they couldn't even walk! Their leg muscles had wasted away and it took me weeks of pampering before they started moving around. These chickens were also unusually aggressive with no social skills whatsoever, pecking one another and fighting constantly. I eventually had to separate them from the rest of the chickens into their very own hen house, but they never acquired any form of 'natural' chicken behaviour and just existed to the end of their days, fighting, squabbling and generally looking miserable...

    The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?" 
    ~Jeremy Bentham

    Free-range eggs from my hens - I get between 6 a day



  1. Maree, I couldn't agree with you more about keeping animals in as natural environment as possible.

    1. I know the battery system is a matter of logistics Kathryn, but some time or another we are going to have to realise that there must be some other alternatives. Thanks for stopping by!



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