United Poultry Concerns
1 September 2009
For Immediate Release Contact: Karen Davis 757-678-7875
United Poultry Concerns Urges Little Rhody Egg Farms to Stop Starving Hens
“Neither water nor food should be withdrawn to induce a cessation of egg production” in egg-laying hens. - American Veterinary Medical Association

MACHIPONGO, Va. September 1, 2009 - United Poultry Concerns (UPC) is calling on Little Rhody Egg Farms, in Foster, Rhode Island, to stop starving the company’s hens to make them molt their feathers and cease producing eggs, before forcing them into another egg-laying cycle.

On August 12, 2009, UPC President Karen Davis sent a letter to Little Rhody owner, Eli Berkowitz, urging him to feed his hens after learning that the company removes the hens’ food to force them to lose 15 to 20 percent of their body weight. Mr. Berkowitz has declined to disclose how many days the hens sit in their cages with nothing to eat. (www.upc-online.org/battery_hens/little_rhody/090818stop_starving.html)

Force-molting hens by taking away all their food - a U.S. egg-industry practice in the 20th century - has been rejected on animal welfare grounds by United Egg Producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In the late 20th century, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service showed that “the immune system in molted hens was compromised,” increasing their susceptibility to Salmonella enteritidis infections. ARS stated: “The potential problems associated with the presence of S. enteritidis in the flock environment become exacerbated when birds are exposed to a stress situation such as food removal.” (Cited in www.upc-online.org/molting/52703.htm)

In 2004, the American Veterinary Medical Association amended the Association’s welfare policy on the forced molting of laying hens, stating that henceforth, “neither food nor water should be withdrawn.”

In 2005, United Egg Producers, the U.S. egg industry trade group, announced that after January 1, 2006, “only non-feed withdrawal molt methods will be permitted.”

United Poultry Concerns is calling upon Little Rhody Egg Farms to feed its hens and to stop equating taking away their food with religious fasting. There’s a difference between choosing not to eat and being locked up for days without food. No reputable entity supports forced molting by food deprivation anymore. Producers can molt their hens using low-nutrient molt diets. As noted in Feedstuffs: The Weekly Newspaper for Agribusiness, on June 4, 2007: “Successful molting programs have been developed that do not utilize the complete withdrawal of feed.”

Little Rhody retailers include Stop and Shop, Shaws, CVS, Walgreens, and convenience stores throughout Rhode Island, Southeastern Massachusetts, and Eastern Connecticut. Eggs are labeled Little Rhody and Rhody Fresh.

Mr. Berkowitz said he has received “thousands” of complaints since UPC launched its campaign this past summer. “People do not support an individual or a company refusing to feed their animals,” says UPC President Karen Davis.

In the 1990s, United Poultry Concerns led a campaign to expose the egg industry’s practice of forcing hens to molt by starving them. The campaign prompted a front-page article, by Marc Kaufman, in the Sunday edition of The Washington Post. On April 30, 2000, Kaufman’s article, “Cracks in the Egg Industry: Criticism Mounts to End Forced Molting Practice,” said that the egg industry, by defending the practice, was “facing a public relations as well as scientific problem,” and cited research showing that “food withdrawal lowers the immune systems of hens and makes them more susceptible to salmonella.”

For more information, contact Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns, 757-678-7875.

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. www.upc-online.org.

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