A recently published report claims that there is no such thing as “free range”, and that the idea of chickens roaming free is all a con.
Following a government order that poultry must be kept indoors until at least the end of February due to an outbreak of bird flu, “free range” eggs may have to be renamed as “barn eggs”. The Guardian report talks of cruel practices that occur daily at chicken farms, where most people believe they live a great life under the pretence of “free range”.
The report claims that the majority of young hens have the sharp end of their beaks burned off, without the aid of anaesthetic, as a precaution to stop them from pecking the other hens. Although the hens are classed as free range, the sheds that they are kept in can hold up to nine hens per square metre, whilst some multi-tier sheds can contain up to 16,000 hens. This could mean that their space is so tight and cramped that they cannot find an exit hole to reach the outdoors.
Modern chicken farms feed the hens high protein feed, which causes the hens to lay almost 500 eggs annually, which is a lot more than wild hens would produce. This incredibly high number causes them to tire way before their time, leading to their bodies being slaughtered after living out just a tenth of their natural lifespan. One way to avoid this often hidden cruelty is to buy hens from organic farms which have been certified by the Soil Association; a place that bans the practice of beak trimming.
Alongside this, the fate for male eggs is considered to be even crueler, as their lives are worthless to egg farmers, often leading them to be killed within just hours of them hatching. A suggested alternative to this comes from researchers within the industry who have proposed a genetically modified approach, where the sex of the chick is able to be determined before it has hatched, by the use florescent lighting. This would mean that the male chicks could be crushed in their shells before they hatch. Although some people believe that this is a step forward and an improved approach, others disagree and feel that it is still cruel and merely produces an additional moral dilemma.
Despite many people already being aware of the issue of hen conditions,in 2015 only around 2% of the 12.2 billion eggs sold in the UK were organic. Suggesting an issue with either the wide availability of organic eggs, or the value of them.
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