January 20, 2005
To Whom It May Concern:
A 1988 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, I currently work full-time as a consulting veterinarian in clinical toxicology at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, IL. Prior to that, I worked in general and emergency veterinary practice for about 14 years.
I viewed a videotape provided by Mercy for Animals showing the conditions at the Ohio Fresh Eggs in Croton, Ohio. The facility supposedly meets the United Egg Producers "Animal Care Certified" guidelines. This tape depicts hens kept in extremely cruel conditions at a so-called battery cage egg facility. Having visited one such operation and viewed videotapes from several others, I find that the conditions at this facility are in line with industry standard, i.e. this facility does not appear to practice any higher degree of care for their hens than is normal.
The hens are severely crowded-so crowded that the wire floors of their cages are barely visible and the hens cannot move to another part of the cage without climbing over one another. The wire of the cage is caked with feces and feathers.
The birds have been debeaked; some appear to have been poorly done. This can lead to difficulty eating and starvation. Debeaking involves cutting though the beak of a chick with a hot wire. Chicken's beaks are very sensitive and the procedure is painful.
Probably due to abrasion against the wire of their cages and rubbing up against other hens, virtually all of the hens have suffered severe feather damage including missing wing, body, and tail feathers. In some hens, severe skin abrasions and infected wounds are evident. One hen has become impaled on a wire in her cage; the wire has torn a large laceration in her neck and the underlying muscle is visible. Many have masses of the face and neck that appear to be untreated cancerous growths or abscesses. Others have untreated eye injuries; one hen has a severe corneal ulcer that will likely rupture and destroy the eye. Corneal ulcers are extremely painful if left untreated.
The videotape shows several hens with their feet, head, neck, and/or wings caught in the wire of their cages. In such conditions, the birds cannot reach food or water and would die a slow death from starvation and dehydration. Many of these birds have already died.
The bodies of several dead hens are seen; some are in the advanced stages of decay. This indicates that they have been dead for several days or longer and, obviously, no attempt has been made to remove them from the cages. These corpses could pose a disease threat to other chickens.
The conditions, revealed by the videotape, impose extreme physical and psychological deprivation. Prevented from engaging in normal chicken activities such as dustbathing, foraging, and sunbathing, as well as being subjected to the effects of severe crowding and an atmosphere filled with dust and toxic ammonia fumes, the hens appear listless and dazed; many barely react even when a camera's bright light shines on them.
In sum, the Mercy for Animals videotape that I viewed shows hens subjected to extremely inhumane conditions that inflict severe deprivation and injury. I have no doubt that these hens suffer terribly under such conditions. In addition, this facility appears to provide no higher level of care than the typical battery cage operation. To claim to be "Animal Care Certified" appears to not only not improve the conditions that the hens live under but also mislead the public into thinking that can buy eggs while falsely believing the hens are being treated humanely.
Eric Dunayer, VMD