United Poultry Concerns April 23, 2002
Letter to Living on Earth Re: Show on Germany's Battery Cage Ban

Karen Davis wrote a letter to the executive producer of NPR's Living on Earth which did the report on Germany's banning of battery cages. Please write write a short thank you letter and request that Living on Earth do a similar report on the condition of battery-caged hens in the U.S.

23 April 2002

Karen Davis, PhD
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
12325 Seaside Road, PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405

Mr. Steve Curwood
Executive Producer
Living on Earth
8 Story Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-4956

Dear Mr. Curwood:

Thank you very much for your excellent show of April 19, on which you aired a report on Germany's decision to ban all cages for laying hens by 2012. The condition of battery-caged hens described by the EU Scientific Veterinary Committee-feather pecking, heart attacks, broken bones, diseases, and more-can be found in any laying hen facility picked at random in the United States. Our country has no federal welfare laws to protect hens used for egg production.

In recent years up to the present, conditions have been documented in Colorado (Boulder Valley Poultry Farms), Ohio (Buckeye and Daylay), Minnesota (Michael Foods), Maryland (ISE-America), Florida and Georgia (Cypress Foods in both states) showing hens' eyes sealed shut with oozing infections, beak tumors the size of balloons, severely injured feet, rats, flies, filth, and abject misery. Every covert investigation has found hens with their wings, heads, and legs trapped helplessly between cage wires next to the rotting corpses and skeletons of hens who died as these hens will die. The toxic excretory ammonia fumes from the manure pits beneath the tiered cages are a primary cause of chronic respiratory disease and immune system dysfunction in battery-caged hens.

Hens in the United States are subjected to a cruel food deprivation procedure, lasting from 4 to 21 days, known as forced molting. Forced molting is illegal in Europe. Forced molting has been scientifically linked to Salmonella enteritidis infection in hens and their eggs, because starvation breaks down the hens' immune systems, as well as driving them to consume each others' Salmonella-contaminated feathers in order to obtain nutrients.

It is thus necessary to understand that hen pecking in confinement is not necessarily, or in most cases, an attack, and that the debeaking of hens (often down to the nub) is a cruel and painful mutilation that is done to accommodate the inappropriate way in which these birds are forced to live. If some hens peck at each other when given a few more inches of cage space, this is because there is nothing for them to act upon in that "extra space" but each other. It's pathetic, for example, that in needing to dustbathe (practice bodily hygiene) and having no dustbathing material (earth, sand, or similar loose-particle substance), caged hens are driven to "rake in" each others' feathers. Such behavior is not an act of aggression or "cannibalism," but the hen's distorted effort to clean her body and maintain her plumage-hopeless under circumstances in which plumage and skin are worn away by the constant rubbing against wires and cagemates. Chickens have a genetic need to dustbathe, just as they have a genetic need to peck. These behaviors make sense in an environment suited to their nature and needs. Cage systems, however, are inimical to the nature and needs of hens. As Dr. Lesley Rogers writes in her book The Development of Brain and Behaviour in the Chicken (1995), "In no way can these living conditions meet the demands of a complex nervous system designed to form a multitude of memories and to make complex decisions" (p. 218).

It would be splendid if you would do a much-needed segment on the condition of battery-caged hens in the United States. United Poultry Concerns will gladly provide you with information, including video documentation of battery-hen facilities in this country. I am enclosing a copy of my book, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry, along with a VHS copy of the 2002 undercover video of the two largest egg farms in Ohio, Buckeye and Daylay, entitled Silent Suffering.

Thank you very much again for your strong and informative report on Germany's decision to ban battery cages for hens by 2012. In presenting this report you have educated thousands of people about the unnecessary and unjust suffering of millions of hens and the need to eliminate cages for hens, not only in Germany, but in the United States and everywhere. We are extremely grateful for your presentation, and we commend you for it.

Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information at 757-678-7875.


Karen Davis, PhD

Karen Davis is the President of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. She is the author of several books including Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry (Book Publishing Company, 1996) and More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality (Lantern Books, 2001).

4/21/2002: DawnWatch: NPR's Living on Earth covers Germany's ban on cages for hens (external link)

United Poultry Concerns. April 23, 2002

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(Action Alert - Letter to Living on Earth Re: Show on Germany Battery Cage Ban)

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