January 10, 2003
To whom it may concern:
A 1988 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, I currently work full-time as a consulting veterinarian in clinical toxicology at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, IL and part-time at an emergency clinic in Champaign, IL. I have over 14 years of veterinary clinical experience.
I viewed a videotape provided by Mercy For Animals showing conditions at the Weaver Bros. Egg Farm in Versailles, Ohio. This tape depicts hens kept in extremely cruel conditions at a so-called battery-cage egg facility. Having visited one such operation and viewed videotapes from several others, I find that the inhumane conditions at this facility appear to be industry standard.
The hens are severely crowded - so crowded that the wire floor of their cages are barely visible and the hens cannot move to another part of the cage without climbing over one another. The wire of the cage is caked with feces and feathers.
Probably due to abrasion against the wire of their cages, many of the hens suffered from severe feather damage including missing wing and tail feathers. Many have masses of the face and neck that appear to be untreated cancerous growths or abscesses. These may be the result of repeated trauma from the wire cage or other birds.
The videotape shows several hens with their feet, head, neck, and/or wings caught in the wire of their cages. In such conditions, the birds cannot reach food or water and would die a slow death from starvation and dehydration.
The bodies of several dead hens are seen; some are in the advanced stages of decay. This indicates that they have been dead for several days or longer and, obviously, no attempt has been made to remove them from the cages. These corpses could pose a disease threat to other chickens.
One weak but still living chicken is shown having been thrown into a drum with dead chickens and left to die. Rather than properly euthanizing this bird and ending her suffering, the staff at this operation appears to simply have chosen to discard her. Leaving an obviously sick animal to die on her own is cruel and a violation of any standard of animal welfare.
The conditions revealed by the videotape impose extreme physical and psychological deprivation. Prevented from engaging in normal chicken activities such as dustbathing, foraging, and sunbathing, as well as being subjected to the effects of severe crowding and an atmosphere filled with dust and toxic ammonia fumes, the hens appear listless and dazed; many barely react even when a camera's bright light shines on them.
In sum, the Mercy For Animals videotape that I viewed shows hens subjected to extremely inhumane conditions that inflict severe deprivation and injury. I have no doubt that these hens suffer terribly under such conditions. Keeping hens in battery cages is unquestionably cruel.
Eric Dunayer, VMD