Chickens Need Room To Stretch

US - Connecticut's state bird is the robin, and it's not a state necessarily known for its chickens. While the state has only 1 percent of the nation's flock of egg-laying hens, state lawmakers now have the opportunity to make life better for 3 million birds in Connecticut.
calendar icon 7 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

On Friday, the legislature's Environment Committee will hold a public hearing on House Bill 7304, which would require the most basic protection for laying hens in the state: that they have enough room to spread their wings, rather than be cramped in tiny wire cages. The measure would essentially prohibit the confinement of laying hens in so-called "battery cages," and require that the state's egg purchases come from cage-free producers.

Nearly all egg-laying hens nationwide are confined in cages so restrictive that the birds can barely move, let alone engage in many other natural behaviors such as walking, perching and dust bathing. Each caged laying hen has 67 square inches of floor space - less than a sheet of letter-sized paper - on which to live for nearly her entire life, leading to extremely high levels of stress and frustration.

Poultry science expert Dr. Ian Duncan of the University of Guelph in Ontario writes, "The lack of space in battery cages reduces welfare by preventing hens from adopting certain postures - such as an erect posture with the head raised - and performing particular behaviors - such as wing-flapping."

Even Pope Benedict XVI has spoken out against these cages. In a 2002 interview, then-Cardinal Ratzinger stated, "We cannot just do whatever we want with them ... Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that ... hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible."

From the scientific to the spiritual, there is more and more consensus that caged hens are the most commonly abused animals in agribusiness today. Yet there are still a small number of people who believe that this confinement is acceptable.


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