Febrary 13, 2005
I, Laurie Siperstein-Cook, DVM, am a veterinarian who specializes in birds. I am a graduate of the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
I viewed a video supplied to me by Mercy For Animals and labeled "Mercy for Animals Investigation of Ohio Fresh Eggs in Croton, Ohio, November 2004." The conditions depicted in the video are deplorable. The chickens are kept in very close confinement, with little or no room to spread their wings and to perform natural grooming and foraging behaviors. They also cannot escape pests, such as the rodent shown in the video, that may bite or spread disease. One hen has a pile of droppings on her back. There are dead birds left in the cages, some left for an obviously long time, which would contribute to the spread of disease.
Many of the hens shown are severely debeaked, which, besides causing severe pain at the time of the debeaking procedure, may cause chronic pain through the formation of neuromas at the stump. Debeaking also makes it difficult for the hen to prehend her food and to groom herself properly, making her more prone to feather damage and parasites.
The various ailments shown appear mainly to be infectious of the eye and sinuses. They are likely caused by bacteria spread through dust and overcrowding. They would be very painful and chronic and would make breathing and vision difficult.
The hens that are trapped in parts of the cages where they cannot reach food or water would be suffering from a slow and agonizing death from starvation or, more likely, from dehydration. In addition, there is the pain inflicted on the body part, such as the wing, that is trapped. It could become twisted, broken, or lose circulation, all of which are painful conditions. One hen is shown caught by the skin of her neck to a wire at the top of the cage. The pain and suffering is obvious, but would include direct pain of the injury and subsequent infection, as well as dehydration and starvation. The live hen thrown in the trash bin would also suffer a slow death by dehydration, as she appeared unable to get out on her own.
To grant this facility the title of "Animal Care Certified" is patently misleading to consumers. For the farm to allow hens to remain trapped and unable to reach food and water is unconscionable. They obviously do not inspect the cages often enough, as many were left to die in these conditions. Various painful illnesses are also left untreated and the hens are thus allowed to suffer. Furthermore, the label leads to the average consumer to imagine that the hens would have a reasonable amount of room to move and to perform normal behaviors. The cramped conditions shown belie that image. A minimally compassionate consumer would be horrified at the actual conditions depicted in the video.
Laurie Siperstein-Cook, DVM