Thursday, January 13, 2011

Debeaked Hens: The List Grows

It looks like hens that lay eggs for Organic Valley experience debeaking:
"Organic Valley does, however, permit debeaking."
Pete and Gerry's egg-laying hens do too:
"We tried not debeaking," Jesse said, "but it didn't work for us."
Those quotations are from a book I'm reading, The Way We Eat. The copyright is 2006. Maybe things have changed. (Update: Things haven't changed, according to the Cornucopia Institute.)

I guess I can add them to the list of brands that use debeaked hens:
  • Giving Nature
  • Nature's Yoke
  • Sauder's
  • The Country Hen
  • Trader Joe's
The labels "Certified Humane" and "Certified Organic" both allow debeaking. All other conventional eggs, which constitute over 90% of the market, come from debeaked hens unless a claim is made to the contrary.

The hens are debeaked to prevent them from pecking at one another. The treatment is likened to cutting off the tips of a person's fingers.

So, if we eat these eggs, we either find this practice ethical, or we are acting unethically. Is there another choice? I suppose being ignorant, or just not knowing ... which is a category I fell into for a long time.

I just remembered that the Cornicopia Institute lists egg producers who do not debeak. See their Organic Egg Scorecard.
The hen photo was from a slide show by


Perovskia said...

This makes me sad and I'm not sure what one would do about it (purchase the eggs or not). Perhaps if there's another organic supplier who doesn't do that?

One needs to do their research. Just when you thought some things were 'safe'.

Dr. Mel said...

There are many folks who would say the same thing about declawing a cat on its front paws (that it's like cutting off fingertips, implying great pain and suffering). All my cats are rescues/strays, and they all become indoor cats. I have antique furniture. Hence each cat has been declawed on the front feet. With 10-12 cats over the years (not all at once!), I have never noticed any evidence of post-declawing pain.

Whether this is true w/ hens is hard to say--and I'll bet it's even harder to find an unbiased opinion (for either pain or lack of pain). Though I would at least suspect that agri-biz growers don't give a damn one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

Cutting a bird's beak is unethical. Castrating male pigs? Unethical. Declawing cats? Unethical. Docking cows and pigs tails? Unethical. The list goes on.

Paula said...

Oh wow! I am not surprised this practice goes on but I am surprised it's considered "certified humane". I've been thinking of raising my own chickens, this is one more reason.

Donald Kjellberg said...

I could not find any information on Cornucopia about debeaking. Can you provide a link?

Bix said...

Hi Donald. Sure. On the Organic Egg Scorecard I linked above;

... pick a brand then scroll down under "Criteria" to "Beak Trimming."

Marit said...

If anybody reading this thinking about getting their cat declawed Don't Do It!!

It's painful and two dozen countries ban it!

"Cats’ claws and the bones and cartilage that hold them in place allow cats to balance properly, climb, and defend themselves, among other functions. Declawing, which removes these claws, bones, and cartilage, is a painful and permanently crippling procedure that should never be performed. There are effective and humane alternatives to declawing that can prevent cats from inflicting damage with their claws."

There are better things. You can train him to scratch a post.


Dr. Mel said...

@Anonymous--personally I regard declawing a cat on the front paws, a cat who will be an indoor cat, as a lot less unethical than the alternative, which would be to leave them on the street to reproduce, sicken, and die.

@Marit--I say the same thing--I can leave the cats to reproduce, starve, and die, or I can bring them inside and give them a great life filled with love and many good things. And I guess I have exceptional cats, as they NEVER have shown the slightest discomfort after this procedure. They are not traumatized. Or maybe I just have really good vets.

What's unethical is keeping chickens, pigs, cows, etc. as food animals, esp. under the conditions in which most such animals are kept. Torturing them is unethical. Using animals as entertainment is unethical (cicuses, seaworld, etc.). Wearing leather shoes or using leather in other applications is unethical. Eating animals is unethical.

Dr. Mel said...

I support PETA, but they promote extremist views on some issues. To say that declawed cats can't balance or jump or climb is just ludicrous. However, I totally agree that any cat that's going to be outside should never be declawed on all four feet, and preferably not at all. My declawed cats have fabulous balance, and the younger among them can jump from the floor to the top of a six-foot desk in one leap.

And my cats have always had scratching posts rubbed w/ catnip, etc., and they always go for the only remembrances I have of my departed parents, the upholstered furniture.

Dr. Mel said...

So glad to know that some farmers do not debeak their birds.

Anonymous said...

I just saw that list of countries that ban declawing. Most of those countries are in Europe. They're always ahead of us in animal welfare.

Isabelle Montfort de Bretagne said...

I was given a few hens that came from orgainic valley. They did have a small part the top part of thier beaks taken off. My nieghbor worked for organic valley and would recieve 500 birds every month as they would get rid of birds at 16 months because their egg size would not be consistant enough. She was able to sell many as stew hens, or cheap layers. They were very sad looking, crammed in large outdoor pens; my nieghbor said they were housed in simular conditions at organic valley. Such a disrepect for the lives of the birds.

They looked very simular to the hens in the link below when I first got them...

After free ranging on my property for a year they looked like this...

These hens were the sweetest birds in the flock, the could not forage as well, so ate more feed, but were active and loved to dig. I am glad I am able to raise my own birds in a humane way even if not completely organic.

Bix said...

Isabelle, am looking at your link now (can't get the second one to work). I don't know chickens but this one looks kind of skinny?