Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights
PO Box 208 Davis, CA 95617

United Poultry Concerns
PO Box 150 • Machipongo, VA 23405-0150

21 January 2004
Contact: Karen Davis 757-678-7875

United Poultry Concerns Petitioners Urge Egg Industry to Stop Starving Chickens

Machipongo, Va. – United Poultry Concerns mailed 2072 petition signatures yesterday to the U.S. egg industry trade group, United Egg Producers, urging the industry to stop starving hens from 5 to 21 days at a time until the birds lose a quarter to a third of their bodyweight including body fat, feathers, liver tissue, musculature, and skeleton. This makes a total of 9528 signatures that we have gathered and mailed from U.S. citizens who are appalled by the egg industry’s practice of depriving hens of food and of falsely comparing this blatant cruelty to the natural molting of birds to maintain good plumage.

According to the June 2003 issue of Poultry Science, of the 240 million hens exploited for egg production each year in the U.S., between 144 million and 168 million birds are force molted, in spite of the fact that U.S. government experiments have shown over and over that forced molting causes hens to develop virulent Salmonella enteritidis (SE) infections in their ovaries and their eggs. Force-molted hens, these experiments have shown, “were 100- to 1,000-fold more susceptible to infection by SE and therefore more readily transmitted the organism to uninfected hens in neighboring cages” (p. 1008).

While the egg industry has sought to dismiss these findings as merely experimental, comparable field studies of U.S. flocks have found that the numbers of Salmonella enteritidis organisms doubled in molted versus nonmolted flocks, and “the levels of environmental salmonellae increased dramatically in commercial flocks following a molt” (p. 1009).

Under natural conditions, hens spend 60% to 90% of their day foraging for food. When these normally active birds are starved in their cages for days and weeks, their immune systems are so weakened by stress and lack of nutrients that Salmonella organisms quickly invade their gastrointestinal tract and proceed “with invasion of the spleen and liver” (p. 1003).

For a summary of “The Animal Welfare and Food Safety Issues Associated with the Forced Molting of Laying Birds,” click on

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.

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