One of the latest Animals Australia welfare campaigns has been focusing on convincing many major supermarkets to stop stocking cage eggs. To their credit, they’ve had some movement, though it’ll actually be several years before any of them actually stop selling cage eggs. The joyous cries of victory go up but the confetti settles on several more years of barbaric confinement of hens in an area not bigger than an early generation iPad.
A slice of history shows us that Piedemonte’s were one of first to ban cage eggs and got the ball rolling. Woolworths said they’d phase out by 2018. Coles removed their Coles-brand eggs during 2013, and they’ll likely follow suit with the rest. McDonalds Australia are going to phase cage eggs out across their 900 stores in 2017. Subway Australia committed to their 1,400 stores being cage egg free by 2018. Walmart, the nation’s biggest food seller in the US, is even on board .. but you know, sometime off in 2025 or something.
Certainly, a cold hard fact is that consumer demand and pressure has made several organisations plan to move away from cage eggs. Animals Australia just claimed today that a social media revolution has started as the pressure builds in Aldi to follow suit. Pwoar, that’s a gigantic call to make, especially when a revolution implies a forcible overthrow of social order in favour of a new system. Never mind the tumbleweed blowing by as I go looking for that new system.
Now for all your egg eaters out there, in Australia just recently the state and commonwealth ministers had announced its legal definition of the term “free range”. Previously, no one had the slightest idea and it was often up to the discretion of the company’s marketing team to paint a rosy picture of green pastures and Freedom! Glorious Freedom! and foolish customers didn’t bat an eyelid. But ha-ha! Now you can retort back to all those “angry animal rights activists” about how free range is free range, der.
Now, in order for eggs to be labelled “free range”, the national standard states that there needs to be a minimum standard stocking density of 10,000 chickens per hectare. That sounds okay, doesn’t it? It’s actually a massive increase from the 1,500 per hectare that many people and groups consider to be “humane” .. as they actively support exploiting these hens for their eggs and slitting their throats when they stop producing eggs because their bodies get worn out.
On top of the density requirement, there is also “meaningful access” to outdoor areas that is required under these new standards. But, technically, hens don’t actually need to leave the shed at all for their eggs to be considered “free range”. Oh, you cheeky buggers! What ever will we do with you? It’s the icing on the egg-beaten cake really—a nice loophole designed to fool the average shopper who could barely care about a hen’s existence, and enough marketing spiel that your slightly more concerned individual sitting on the fence of a moral cognitive dissonance battle, would then be able to push that nagging guilt into the back of their head as they allow themselves to pick up a fresh batch of “free range” hen eggs.
A perfect example of just how empty this bullshit commitment really is. And you know it.
Cage Eggs Out, Free Range In
It’s good days for egg eaters really. The decision makes it much easier for large-scale farms and businesses to benefit from the free-range label, without adhering to pesky recommendations from the CSIRO–Australia’s science agency–and the annoying RSPCA.
“Free range” is a feel-good marketing term that businesses use—now with the support of the government—to make consumers feel kind as if their choices aren’t really resulting in any kind of negative consequence. “Well, at least they get to go outside”. Ha—hook, line, and sinker, though let’s leave fish out of this They have feelings, too. In reality, every single egg brand is doing horrible things to hens every single day of the year, whether they’re classified as cage, free range, or organic by human eyes.
All hens are used for their bodies (another one of those cold hard facts, brr it’s getting chilly in here). All hens have their pituitary gland manipulated by artificial lighting to produce a hormone that is carried via the bloodstream to the ovary, which sets egg production in motion. All farmers are recommended to “trick” hens into continuing to lay eggs for longer periods in each day and throughout the entire year—jokes on you, hens! Most chickens are “debeaked” where a sharp blade slices off part of their sensitive peak; this stops hens from injuring one another in overcrowded spaces (like iPad cages or 10,000 per hectare cages—whoops I mean, sheds) and also stifles healthy, natural social behaviours like preening or, you know, eating.
All hens get trucked off and killed after 18 to 24 months when their bodies are drained of life from the intensive production. All male chicks are ground up alive on day 1 in a especially designed blade machine—an endearing term you may have heard, maceration—because males can’t lay eggs. Ah, never mind that flickering there from the lightbulb of realisation. In fact, if you listen closely, you can hear their fragile bones being turned into a rough powder off into the distance as you crack an egg open on the fry pan.
According to farmers and most people, sentient animals are mere products and outputs to generate profit with no inherent value that could lead them to being able to live their lives for their own reasons, instead of ours. Before you denounce me as the evil vegan, it would be ludicrous to deny the cold hard facts (that’s three! brr) and nothing but a derail attempt to try and justify it.
It’s seemingly perfect timing really, the release of the “free range” definition, as social media campaigns mount and individuals who believe in kind exploitation and oppression plaster business Facebook pages with damning double standard comments. As the consumer attitude changes and pushes back against hens being shoved into tiny iPad-sized cages, the “free range” definition makes its timely landing to stipulate that farmers should get rid of tiny cages and implement a big, large cage instead—better known as a shed.
It’s all quite perfect really, except for the chickens. They’ll continue to be exploited, used, oppressed, and killed to the tune of billions every year. Paint it however you want but cage eggs on the way out is certainly not a revolution of any sorts. One cruel way of using animals is simply replaced with another cruel way of using animals. It’s animal welfarism at its finest.