April 7, 2010
New Investigations by The HSUS Reveal Appalling Animal Abuse at Four Egg Factory Farms
Abuses documented at the second- and third-largest egg producers in the nation
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Humane Society of the United States released results of its latest investigation into industrial agribusiness and exposed rampant abuse at the top levels of the egg industry in America. An undercover investigator documented extreme and unacceptable conditions at four different factory farms, owned by two of the nation's largest egg producers. There are about 10 million birds at the facilities that were investigated, with one facility having 18 structures each confining approximately 300,000 birds.
In February and March 2010, an HSUS investigator worked inside Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises, the nation's second- and third-largest egg producers. Working at four of these companies' Iowa factory egg farms, the investigator documented appalling abuses.
"Our investigation is a deeply troubling indictment of the battery cage egg industry in America, specifically implicating two of its top three egg producers," stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "Misery and suffering are standard at these facilities, and this investigation reveals that animals simply cannot be properly cared for in facilities of this size and type. There is a cage-free alternative, and switching to it should be a minimum moral imperative for the industry."
Rose Acre Farms
An HSUS investigator was employed at Rose Acre Farms for 15 days during February, working at three facilities in Winterset, Stuart and Guthrie Center, Iowa. These factory farms confine nearly 4 million egg-laying hens and about 1 million young hens (pullets). The investigator documented the following abuses:
- Broken bones: Workers roughly yank pullets from their cages in growing sheds and load them into cages for transport to battery cages, resulting in a mass of twisted bodies.
- Cruel, extremely rough handling: The HSUS investigator videotaped workers pulling young hens from the mobile cages and stuffing them into battery cages.
- Cruel depopulation methods: The HSUS investigator documented workers grabbing hens by their legs, then cramming them into gassing carts where they're killed with carbon dioxide.
- Prolapsed uteruses: Hens suffer from "blow-outs" that go unnoticed and untreated.
- Trapped birds unable to reach food and water: Battery cages can trap hens by their wings, necks, legs and feet in the wire, causing other birds to trample the weakened animals, usually resulting in a slow, painful death.
- High mortality in layer and pullet sheds: The HSUS investigator pulled dead young hens, some of them mummified and rotting for weeks, from cages every day.
- Failure to maintain manure pits: According to one worker, the manure pit under a pullet shed had not been cleaned in two years. Workers claimed that some hens are blinded from ammonia.
- Abandoned hens: Some hens manage to escape from their cages and fall into manure pits.
An HSUS investigator also worked for 10 days during March at a Rembrandt Enterprises, Inc., factory farm in Thompson, Iowa, which confines nearly 5.5 million laying hens. The investigator documented the following abuses:
- Injuries from overcrowding: Rembrandt confines six to seven hens in each battery cage. Smaller or weaker hens are often trampled by others.
- Trapped hens: Hens' wings, necks, legs and feet become entangled in cage wires, often resulting in trampling, as well as death by starvation and dehydration.
- Broken bones: Workers sometimes slam battery cage doors shut on birds' wings, legs and necks, causing broken bones.
- High mortality: During his first two days on the job, the HSUS investigator pulled scores of decomposed and mummified hen carcasses that were obviously weeks old.
- Eye and beak infections: The HSUS investigator videotaped hens with abscesses that caused their eyes to close and beaks and mouths to swell.
- Prolapses: The HSUS investigator pulled many dead hens from cages who had obviously suffered uterine prolapses. One live hen's prolapse became caught in the cage floor.
- Failure to euthanize: Sick and injured hens were often put back into their cages instead of being euthanized.
- Abandoned hens: The HSUS investigator found starving hens in manure pits.
- Lengthy transport: Rembrandt does not kill "spent" hens on site but rather trucks them to a Minnesota slaughter plant. As a result, the birds are violently yanked from their battery cages, confined in mobile cages, and trucked to the plant.
The HSUS also released a new report detailing the problems inherent in cage confinement of laying hens and the importance of the national movement toward cage-free production systems.
- Many major food retailers are moving away from battery cage eggs. For example, Hellmann's is converting to 100 percent cage-free eggs in its mayonnaise, and all Wal-Mart's private line eggs are cage-free.
- Michigan and California have passed laws to outlaw cages for laying hens.
- U.S. factory farms confine about 280 million hens in barren battery cages so small, they can't spread their wings. Extensive scientific research confirms this causes suffering.
- Cage-free hens generally have two to three times more space per bird than caged hens. Cage-free hens may not be able to go outside and may have parts of their beaks cut off, but they can walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests—all behaviors permanently denied to hens crammed into battery cages.
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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.