Do You Know Your Egg Salad?

The egg industry is busy these days claiming that eggs eaten in

moderation pose no threat to your artery walls. But if you won’t stay away

from these little packages of misery and cholesterol for your health, you

might want to do it for your heart. If you’ve ever had occasion to meet a hen

you’ll know what I mean.

My first encounter with a living chicken was at a friend’s mini-farm on

the outskirts of Woodstock, Ill. I parked my car and started walking toward

the house. Suddenly a small creature appeared, running down the path to meet

me. Within seconds, a tan and white hen was at my feet, looking up at me and

making a series of tiny silent hops into the air. Each hop propelled her

straight up about four inches. She was hopping so fast, with such energy,

that she looked like a bouncing featherball.

“Butterscotch wants you to pick her up,” laughed my friend Georgi, coming

toward us. Amazed at the trust this little being was showing in me, a giant

stranger forty times bigger than she, I bent down and gingerly picked her up.

She snuggled herself comfortably into my arms, her lovely soft feathers

spread over them, as cuddly as any cat I’d ever held. All settled in, she

tilted her head and looked up at me as if to say, “There. Isn’t this nice?”

I have since met other chickens and learned that, like people and all

other animals, some are shy, some are brave and some are more affectionate or

outgoing than others. But each is a sensitive little individual with his or

her own distinct personality. They reach out to us in trust, but we betray

that trust. Because 95 percent of our chickens and eggs today are produced by

giant factory farms, I believe that, in sheer numbers, chickens suffer more

than any other animal on earth.

Incredibly, chickens and other poultry are not even afforded the feeble

protection of the Animal Welfare Act or the Humane Slaughter Act. Every year,

producers for whom profits override common decency subject 5 to 6 billion

chickens to misery beyond belief.

Since only female chickens lay eggs, 280 million male chicks a year from

layer strains

are thrown into plastic trash bags to suffocate as soon as they peck and peep

their way out of their shells. Sometimes the bags full of living chicks are

crushed by manual or automatic mallets and are used as fertilizer or mink

food. Welcome to planet Earth, baby birds.

Female chicks are debeaked with a searing wire that sometimes also takes

part of their tiny tongues or faces. Then they grow up with three to four

other hens in wire “battery” cages with floor space the size of a record

album cover. They are so jam-packed they can’t even stretch a wing or preen.

Excrement from cages stacked above splatters hens below. Raw sores replace

feathers. Feet made to walk on ground, not balance on slanted wire, become

deformed. Legs become crippled, wings atrophy, bones made brittle snap. The

weak die.

It takes 22 hours in this hell for each “Butterscotch” to lay one egg.

A chicken’s normal life span is 15 to 20 years, but these hens are “used

up” in 16 to 18 months, then pulled from their cages and stuffed into crates

for a terrifying ride to the slaughterhouse.

Some European countries have outlawed the battery cage, and enacted

humane laws to protect hens. No such measure is forthcoming in the United

States, so great is the poultry magnets’ power.

So have a heart (and save your heart)–when it comes to eggs, just say

no.

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