2014 Conscious Eating Conference: Session #3: The Humane Hoax
Speaker: Marji Beach, Advocacy and Education Director, Animal Place
Beach started the session with wanting to reframe the way people think about exploited farm animals. She asked, “if we can justly and compassionately raise farm animals without oppressing, abusing, and exploiting them?” She outlined the distinction between pasture-based farming where chickens can behave naturally and factory farming where hens are confined to battery cages where they cannot move. Chickens used for egg production are born in large commercial hatcheries, like the Hy-Line Hatchery in Iowa, she said, which produces 45 percent of the global production of hens used in egg production. She was quick to point out that the male chicks are immediately killed, they are gassed or ground up as soon as they hatch. She noted the chicks are fully conscious when they are killed and warned, “behind every egg you buy in a store, a male chick is killed for it. It all starts out with suffering—the girls are separated from the boys, then they are ‘debeaked’ and consequently they are deformed for the rest of their lives. They cannot defend themselves.”
She talked about the confusing and misleading labels in marketing campaigns for products, giving the example of a lawsuit against Judy’s Family Farm. The lawsuit was based on false advertising on the carton label that stated being “Certified Humane” and posted a photo that was the complete antithesis of the truth. Judy’s Family Farm lost the lawsuit.
Beach talked about egg-laying hens and their lives on factory farms. She clarified a consumer misunderstanding that hens “don’t lay eggs for us, they lay a ‘clutch’ of baby chicks.” She clarified, they are expecting to reproduce chicks not have their eggs removed. Factory farm chickens are forced to produce 6 times the number of eggs than a normal chicken would produce. “Hens are forced to produce an abnormal number of eggs, very painfully.” She highlighted the horrific health problems that result from this—the irreparable damage to their bodies by the time they reach only one year (chickens can live 15-20 years). The over-laying causes ovarian cancer, prolapsed uterus’s and their reproductive systems can actually get pushed out from too much pressure. Hens also get egg-bound, where eggs get caught in their system and can’t come out, which is extremely painful and can be deadly for them. At one year old the hen’s body is totally spent, Beach says, “they are sucked dry from egg production, then killed due to not being economically viable anymore.” She said chickens are then killed fully conscious, and that it takes 1-2 minutes for them to actually die, unlike the assumption many people have that their death is quick and painless.
Beach then talked about the dairy industry and conventional dairy farming. Most conventional dairy farms raise about 3,500 cows at a time, with newborn calves that never get to nurse on their mother’s milk. Up to 95 percent of calves are immediately removed from their mother in their first hours after birth, as opposed to a normal weaning process of 8-12 months. Cows are forcibly impregnated with artificial insemination on industrial farms. They normally reach maturity in 3-5 years, but female cows on factory farms are forcibly impregnated at 12 months, barely one year old. Due to their bodies being too immature for pregnancy and birth, they suffer many physical problems all of their short lives. They are forced to over-produce milk as well. Cows normally produce 1-2 gallons of milk per day, but on factory farms they are forced to produce up to 10 gallons of milk per day, 5-10 times what is normal and natural for them. As a result, the average productive life of a factory farm cow is 4-6 years then they are slaughtered for meat. This is a stark contrast to a normal cow’s life expectancy of 18-20 years. Beach contends that the dairy industry relies on the most brutal, cruel acts of torture that could possibly be done to animals.
Speaker: Marji Beach
Conference: 2014 Conscious Eating Conference
Date: April 2014
Place: David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA