The Battle Over Battery Hens

Lose One

AVMA Refuses To Set Welfare Precedent for Millions of Hens

In the last issue of PoultryPress (Fall/Winter 1998), we noted that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) voted at its November meeting whether to revise its endorsement of forced molting to a position of opposition. At press we were waiting for the results. (US egg producers starve their hens for an average of 10 days and as long as 14 days straight to manipulate egg production and market prices.) The vote was a response to the campaign being waged by United Poultry Concerns (UPC) and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) to ban forced molting. The US egg industry uses the AVMA's endorsement of forced molting as an argument to justify and continue the practice.

Despite a powerful presentation at the November meeting by UPC member and AVAR board member Holly Cheever, DVM, the AVMA voted to keep its endorsement while advocating additional research on how to improve the "welfare" aspects of forced molting. Forced molting experiments have been conducted in the US and worldwide for decades--at least since the turn of the century. The AVMA vote means the experiments (including the administration of toxic levels of zinc) will not only continue but, if anything, increase. It means that countless millions of hens in US commercial egg production will continue to be starved with the blessing and assistance of the animals' "healing" profession.

The AVMA's support for the starvation of hens used for egg production is not only unconscionable; it is inconsistent. It is inconsistent on the animal welfare level because forced molting puts many more birds in a more prolonged state of continuous suffering than does cockfighting, which the AVMA condemns. (Cockfighters do not use veterinarians whereas many veterinary careers are made by the poultry & egg industry.)

Secondly, the AVMA's endorsement of forced molting flies in the face of its December 15, 1998 report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), which noted that "Eggs are the predominant source of Salmonella Enteritidis infections in humans," and many of the egg-associated Salmonella outbreaks in the US have been "traced back to the farm of origin and have documentation that infected hens were the source of the outbreak.* The JAVMA concluded that "control of Salmonella Enteritidis will require preventing infections in egg-laying and broiler chickens."* This should be a call upon the US egg industry to eliminate forced molting, which has been identified as a major cause of Salmonella Enteritidis in the hens and their eggs.

*UPC editorial underlining

What Can I Do?
  • Continued pressure on the AVMA is needed. Urge the AVMA to oppose forced molting. If the AVMA opposes abusing a comparatively small number of birds for entertainment (cockfighting), it should vigorously oppose abusing hundreds of millions of birds for money, and with far greater health risks. Request a written reply.


    American Veterinary Medical Association
    Attn: Dr. David Granstrom
    1931 N Meacham Rd, Suite 100
    Schaumburg, Illinois 60173