Dr. Vicky Bond, president of The Humane League, walks us through the truth about eggs. We discuss everything from what life looks like for egg-laying hens in our industrialized food system to which eggs to buy at the store if we’re not vegan.
The Humane League is a global non-profit organization focused on helping animals who are raised for food. The group educates and influences the public, and decision-makers within brands such as McDonald’s and Jollibee, to pledge and work to use only cage-free eggs by 2025.
They started this project in 2015 when only 6-7% of hens were cage-free in the US. Now the U.S. is at 40% and big brands such as Nestle have proven that it’s possible to go 100% cage-free.
Vicky believes that it is possible that we can end caged hens in our lifetime, but it takes the work of many animal lovers coming together to make that happen. The Humane League provides the framework, and we simply need to sign up for the Fast Action Network and contribute a couple of minutes per day to be a part of this movement.
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4 Simple Ideas to Help Egg-Laying Hens:
1. JOIN THE HUMANE LEAGUE FAST ACTION NETWORK. In just 2 minutes per day, we can follow instructions sent to the Fast Action Network to influence companies, brands, and legislators to understand the truth about eggs and help egg-laying hens.
2. LEARN ABOUT THE “EATS” ACT AND CONTACT LEGISLATORS. The Humane League has a quick blog post to get grounded on the act and a form to reach out to our specific legislators based on our cities and states. You can quickly modify the letter to match your thoughts and the system will deliver it to your Congress members.
3. BUY PASTURE-RAISED (IN THE US) OR ORGANIC (IN EUROPE) EGGS. When shopping for eggs, there are many choices. Ignore the pictures or illustrations on cartons. Look specifically for the words “pasture-raised” in the US, or secondarily “cage free” or “free range”. In Europe look for “organic”.
4. TRY VEGAN. If you’re not already vegan, give it a try. The Humane League has a nice supportive blog post on how to start as a vegan. It doesn’t need to be full of pressure! Just try a little bit here, a little bit there.
What eggs should I buy?
When looking at labels, don’t look at the imagery. It’s tricking us! For better truth about eggs look for specific words on the box. Here’s a quick vocabulary lesson:
Pros: the birds are in a shed/barn rather than in a cage. This allows them to forage on the floor and have nest boxes that feel safe to lay their eggs. They also have perches that allow them to be higher up and feel safe when needed. Cons: In the US, there are not many regulations (versus in Europe where the regulations are specific) so there can be way more hens than safe or ethical in one barn.
Pros: the birds have access to the outdoors. This could be in combination with being cage free. Cons: In the US, there are not many regulations around what free range means. It could just be a small door in a large barn and most hens may never actually make it outside.
Pros: probably the most humane, 3rd party regulated. This means that birds get a certain amount of space, about 108 sqft per bird. Cons: These birds are still in an industrial system and aren’t treated as individuals when it comes to illness, care, etc.
Pros: predominantly means that the hens are fed organic food and should have access to the outdoors. In Europe, organic has very strong regulations and is the highest level of animal welfare for eggs. Cons: in the US, the regulations are not clear and “organic” could mean a lot of things.
RAISE OUR OWN HENS:
Pros: you care for them as individuals and provide a humane life. Save money not purchasing eggs at the store. Cons: learning how to do it and getting the space and process established (Email me at hello@ForAnimalsForEarth.com if you’d like me to have an episode that teaches us how to get started with our own chickens.)
Pros: no hens are affected in the process of making our food. Cons: lifestyle is difficult for some, need to compensate for nutrients needed. (Email me at hello@ForAnimalsForEarth.com if you’d like to have an episode about getting started as a vegan.)
Where do eggs come from?
Finding the truth about eggs is not easy within an industrialized food system. With factory farming, hens are often seen as the most cruelly treated animals. They are used as products rather than sentient beings, and most people who consume eggs can’t imagine the level of cruelty.
THE TRUTH ABOUT EGGS – an overview of the process from egg-laying hens to eggs being consumed on our table:
- Matured hens lay eggs
- Male chicks are ground up or gassed at 1 day old (250,000,000 male chicks killed per year in the US). Female chicks are reared as pullets.
- Pullets will go into a small cage until about 16-18 weeks of age when they are transported to hen-laying barns or farms.
- Chicks begin laying eggs. Each bird has about an ipad’s worth of space in an all-metal bar cage. They sometimes peck each other to death. They get sores on their feet, and their bones become very weak, too weak to support their bodies. They cannot open their wings or move about freely.
- Hens will lay an egg every day until they reach about 1 year of age (when they begin reducing their egg-laying capacity). They will go to slaughter or be put into forced moulting. In forced moulting, they are starved of water and food for multiple weeks, until their egg production kicks back in and the factory farm gets a few more months of eggs before they go to slaughter. (Moulting is banned in Europe)
- When they go to slaughter, they often break their wings and legs and cut their throats to die.
Why is our food system broken?
The truth about eggs (and our entire food system) is that it’s broken. It is dominated by industrial production, aka “factory farms”. This poses many problems, including:
- prioritizes high yields and profits over human health, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, even nutritional value
- uses lots of resources
- overuses chemical fertilizers and pesticides
- soil degradation
- water pollution
- loss of biodiversity
- all of these things contribute to climate change
- animals are treated as products rather than sentient beings
- humans are exploited in some of the worst working conditions
Important Links mentioned in this episode:
- Fast Action Network – help with just 2 minutes per day
- Open Wing Alliance – activists around the world share best practices and collaborate
- The EATS Act – tell Congress to uphold human and animal welfare laws that have been put in place
- 2023 Eggspose – best and worst performing brands in the Cage Free by 2025 Pledge
About Dr. Vicky Bond:
Vicky Bond is a doctor of veterinary science, animal welfare scientist, and president of The Humane League, a global animal protection nonprofit that exists to end the abuse of animals raised for food.
Bond trained as a veterinary surgeon and practiced as a veterinarian with the primary goal of helping animals. When she witnessed firsthand the horrors that take place on factory farms, she realized that if she really wanted to help animals, she had to work to end factory farming.
ABOUT THE HUMANE LEAGUE:
The Humane League is a global animal protection nonprofit that exists to end the abuse of animals raised for food through both institutional and individual change.