AVMA May Set Welfare Precedent for Millions of Hens
Veterinary Group Responds To UPC/AVAR Pressure
At its November 4th meeting, the Animal Welfare Committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) voted to revise its current position statement endorsing the deliberate starvation practice by the U.S. egg industry known as forced molting. Each year the egg industry deliberately deprives millions of hens of all food for an average of 1-2 weeks, until they lose 25 to 35 percent of their body weight. The hens die during and after the molt. A manager for the country's biggest egg company, Cal-Maine, told UPC: "Usually we lose anywhere from 500 to 1000 hens the first day we put them back on feed. The [excretory] ammonia in the house during this period is so bad we usually wear masks in order to breathe. It is almost unbearable to us."
The workers get sick going in and out of the building. Imagine the hens, trapped and starved, forced to breathe the toxic fumes from their own waste in the no-ventilation, 88 degree F prison. Imagine them inhaling the dust and feathers that a molting researcher said (referring to his laboratory at North Carolina State University) is "like being in the middle of a giant pillow fight." Make that a giant, dirty pillow fight.
Reflecting its economic and career ties, the AVMA has endorsed forced molting. While the association cannot regulate the egg industry, its sanctions have a strong influence on the industry, which has been using the AVMA's position to defend the denial of food to hens in order to manipulate the price of eggs. (Cal-Maine manager: "The egg market is the determining factor when we molt and get rid of a flock.") It's time for the bad guys to be the ones asking, "What's up, Doc?"
United Poultry Concerns and the Association of Veterinarians launched the campaign among veterinarians and animal protectionists to urge the AVMA to oppose forced molting. The AVMA has received thousands of requests for a position change, including more than 100 animal protection groups. The International Head of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), David Bowles, wrote to the AVMA urging it "to revise its current position on forced moulting to oppose the practice on welfare grounds."
As we go to press, we await the AVMA's decision whether it will adopt the Animal Welfare Committee's recommendations and news of what those as yet undisclosed recommendations are.