Egg-laying hens

On average, four hens are permanently confined in cages measuring 16 by 18 inches, analogous to four people living inside an elevator. In this unnatural environment, says poultry behaviourist Dr. Ian Duncan, “hens are not well off. They are unable to satisfy certain basic behaviourial needs: foraging, walking about, pecking, scratching and in particular nesting.”

The resulting stress leads to aggression in the form of hens pecking each other, the damage from which industry tries to control by debeaking the birds shortly after birth: their beak tips are amputated without anesthetic, an operation that industry admits will cause “acute and long-term pain” in these animals. The Canadian method of egg production is also known to routinely break the bones of egg-laying hens. Industry reports that “Broken bones … have shown an alarming increase among laying hens.”

The inactivity of the animals’ intense confinement, combined with the calcium loss due to artificially accelerated egg-laying, induces osteoporosis in hens, rendering their bones fragile and easily broken. “Because spent laying hens are worth very little to Canada’s poultry industry, not much care is taken … the birds’ fragile bones are often broken upon removal from cages.”

Shortly after hatching, tens of millions of unwanted male chicks are killed by the commercial egg industry annually in Canada, usually by gassing, crushing, or suffocation. Since male chicks cannot lay eggs and aren’t the same breeds as chickens raised for meat, they are of no value to the egg or broiler industries.

For more information see:

  • The plight of egg-laying chickens in Canada: http://veg.ca/content/view/62/101/content/view/272/101/
  • This page also includes information about organic free-range eggs: http://veg.ca/content/view/62/101/issues/egg-campaign.html#eggs
  • Also see vegan egg substitutes for baking and making savoury dishes: http://www.veg.ca/issues/eggs.html

Meat-type chickens

Canada has around 2,800 farms where broiler chickens are raised for meat. Unlike laying chickens used for eggs, broiler chickens are not kept in small cages but roam around large sheds that can house up to 50,000 birds.

According to Canadian Professor of Veterinary Surgery Andrew Fraser, these conditions expose the animals to extreme suffering.

“At the beginning the young chicks have adequate space to move around, but at the end of the seven-week growing period they are under very crowded conditions. As a result of this, many broiler chicks go unnoticed when they become injured or sick and therefore die without attention. In addition, this large population of individuals experiences circumstances occasionally which cause hysteria to spread throughout the birds, with resultant crowding and suffocation of large numbers.”

Further, ammonia emitted by the massive buildup of urine and feces in sheds will “irritate the birds’ eyes and upper respiratory tract.”