Other views: Know how that chicken got to your table?

From DailyWorld | March 26, 2015

Americans just can’t get enough chicken. Since 1965, they’ve eaten more just about every year. Now, eggs are enjoying a revival, too.

Not to spoil anyone’s next meal, but there are a few things you might want to know about that food on your plate.

Most egg-laying hens spend their lives crammed in spaces so tiny they cannot turn around or spread their wings. While chickens raised for food have more freedom, they face horrifying deaths on assembly lines.

Still conscious, they’re hung and shackled upside down, at times breaking wings or legs. They go through an electrified “stun” bath, but some scientists say the shock might not render them unconscious. A saw slits their throats at a clip of about two birds per second. And when things go wrong — a bird raises its head above the stun bath or jerks and evades the saw — they could end up scalded alive in a vat.

An undercover investigator’s video released this month by Mercy for Animals, an animal advocacy group, has put chicken slaughter in the news, showing what most people would call cruel.

But not the chicken industry. A spokesman for Wayne Farms, where the video was shot, says “no animal abuse occurred,” and legally speaking, he is correct. A federal law that mandates humane slaughter of livestock does not protect chickens.

But there’s a big space between what’s legal and what’s right. Other livestock must be rendered insensitive to pain before slaughter. Laws covering chickens — which account for 96% of the animals slaughtered — focus on food safety, not cruelty. If a chicken is scalded to death in the production process, government inspectors won’t necessarily intervene. About 700,000 birds — albeit a tiny fraction of the nearly 9 billion slaughtered — died by scalding in 2013.

None of this is necessary. Alternatives exist to kill chickens with less distress and suffering. Britain and parts of Europe use a system that puts them to sleep with a mixture of gases.

Improvements in the lives of egg-laying hens show how much difference the public can make.

After a campaign by the Humane Society of the U.S. in 2008, California voters passed an initiative, which went into effect this January, requiring hens be raised in environments where they can move about freely. Animal advocates and farmers are still fighting over precisely what is required, but the hens are already better off. Michigan, Oregon, Ohio and Washington followed with their own versions mandating more humane housing.

In a boost to better treatment, Burger King and other major players in the food service industry have committed to switching entirely to eggs laid by “cage-free” hens.

Consumers could inspire action to help chickens raised for meat, particularly in Congress, which could put chickens under the wing, so to speak, of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. When the public speaks with its dollars, companies listen and producers change their ways.

Nobody has to be a vegetarian or animal activist to be against suffering. They just need to recognize how the food they’re eating got onto their plate.

via Other views: Know how that chicken got to your table?.

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