Sweaters for Chickens in Cold Climates vs. Egg Company Fined for Letting Hens Freeze to Death
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


Karen Davis,PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns (UPC)
March 2017

Egg companies typically do not see themselves as being responsible for a hen’s welfare once ownership of the bird is transferred, and what happens to spent hens after that tends to fall under the radar.

freezing chickens

This heartwarming story ran Tuesday evening [March 14, 2017] on the PBS NewsHour. Watch, read, and comment here - Frozen chicken? Not with these hand-knit sweaters | PBS NewsHour

What happens when the chicken across the road is cold? You ask your neighbors to knit him a sweater, which is exactly what Erica Max, program director of the Wakefield Estate, did, when she noticed that Prince Peep, a Malaysian Serama rooster, started shivering when the temperature dropped.."I discovered that Serama roosters, you know, normally would live very close to the equator, and they are not well suited to this climate in New England. So Max called up Nancy Kearns, who lives at Fuller Village, a retirement community across the street, and asked her if she and her knitting group could help Prince Peep.

By contrast, the Canadian company, Maple Lodge Farms, left thousands of “free-range, organic” hens to freeze for hours in transport crates waiting to be trucked to slaughter - Maple Lodge Farms fined $6K for suffering of frozen spent hens.

A Canadian meat processor must pay a $6,000 penalty for allowing thousands of free-range hens on their way to slaughter to suffer in frigid conditions, the Federal Court of Appeal has ruled.

Disposal of “Spent” Hens

[From Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs (purchase online) and/or download the book (PDF document)]

Spent hens reach the end of their laying cycle in a physically fragile state.
– “Spent Hen Disposal Across Canada”

Egg companies typically do not see themselves as being responsible for a hen’s welfare once ownership of the bird is transferred, and what happens to spent hens after that tends to fall under the radar. – Poultry Science, Professor Bruce Webster

Before they are slaughtered, egg industry hens are deprived of food for an average of four days to “provide a modest net return to help pay for the costs of hen disposition” says U.S. poultry researcher Bruce Webster, explaining that starving a flock before slaughtering them “provides as much as 3.6 cents extra per hen that can be put against the cost of flock removal.”

In the U.S., “spent” hens are trucked to slaughter in wire cages or plastic crates without food or water for hundreds of miles, frequently across state lines or into Canada, very often with missing legs, feet and wings that were left behind during catching. Many have fractured and broken bones as a result of osteoporosis and brutal handling.

Hens who are still laying eggs are pasted in egg slime and pieces of shells in the transport cages. Hens who escape during catching are rounded up from the manure pits in which they take refuge. A witness described this savage hen hunt at a facility in Mississippi. See Rescuing Layers by Doll Stanley, an investigator with In Defense of Animals.

At slaughter, spent laying hens are a mass of broken bones, abscesses oozing yellow fluids, bright red bruises, internal hemorrhaging, and malignant tumors. They’ve lost forty percent of their feathers, and because they are economically worthless, they sit in the transport cages in all weathers at the slaughterhouse for as long as 12 hours or more waiting to be killed.

The slaughtered hens are shredded into products that hide the true state of their flesh and their lives including chicken soups, pies, nuggets, commercial mink and pet food, livestock and poultry feed, school lunches and other institutionalized food service and government purchase programs developed by the egg industry and the Department of Agriculture to dump dead laying hens onto consumers in diced up form.

Gas-Killing and Live Burial

Lacking flesh on their bodies compared to “meat-type” chickens, spent hens are increasingly disposed of at the production site instead of being trucked to slaughterhouses – although millions still go to slaughterhouses.

With hundreds of millions of unwanted hens being destroyed each year, egg company crews are hired to cram them into sealed metal boxes filled with carbon dioxide (CO2). In 2005, Alberta Egg Producers in Canada announced support for a “cheap, efficient” and “very humane” system of destroying large numbers of hens by dumping them in batches into bins designed to hold 650 birds at a time and pumping carbon dioxide into the bins.

Claims that CO2 gassing produces a “humane” death are false. Carbon dioxide induces a horrible breathing distress in birds and mammals known as dyspnea, which activates brain regions associated with pain and panic. An article on “Dyspnea and Pain” says, “There are few, if any, more unpleasant and frightening experiences than feeling short of breath without any recourse.”

Carbon dioxide gassing causes an agonizing death in the hens. Shot at them through powerful hoses, the “incoming gas is very cold and has a high speed,” says veterinarian Lotta Berg. Veterinarian Holly Cheever states that regardless of the type of killing enclosure, whether a huge chicken house or a metal bin, “if liquid CO2 is used, the possibility of birds freezing to death before loss of consciousness is high.”

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