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Mepkin Abbey: Hell for Chickens

Mepkin Abbey is a Christian (Trappist) monastery in South Carolina that runs an egg factory farm to make money. In January 2007, a PETA investigation found that the abbey’s hens endure constant abuse for almost two years before they are killed. The abuse is so awful it would warrant felony cruelty-to-animals charges if dogs or cats were the victims. While one would hope that Catholic monks would treat their animals better than standard factory farms do, the birds at Mepkin Abbey suffer the very same abuses that almost every hen used to lay eggs in the U.S. endures:

  • At the hatchery that supplies birds to Mepkin Abbey, the sensitive tips of birds’ beaks are seared off with a hot blade. This process causes acute and chronic pain, as discussed in PETA’s letter to Mepkin Abbey. Unable to produce eggs and therefore unprofitable to the industry, male chicks are discarded as trash—often suffocated in plastic bags or ground up in a “macerator” while they are still conscious.
  • At Mepkin Abbey, the monks cram birds into tiny wire “battery cages” that are so small that the animals can’t even spread their wings. Their bones become weak and often break because the birds are unable to exercise them. They never see sunlight, breathe fresh air, or do anything else that is natural and important to them.
  • Sick and injured hens are often left to suffer. PETA’s investigator observed two hens with broken legs who were removed from a cage by one of the monks and left to suffer on the floor of the barn for at least 45 minutes while the monk continued to perform routine chores.
  • When the hens’ bodies become so weak that they stop producing eggs, the abbey starves them using a technique called “feed-withdrawal forced molting” in order to shock them into another laying cycle (to increase their economic utility). This practice is so cruel that up to 5 percent of the hens die during the molt, and many of the surviving hens lose all their feathers and much of their body weight.
  • After every last egg has been squeezed from the birds, Mepkin Abbey ships its hens to gruesome slaughterhouses. There, the hens’ fragile—and possibly already broken—legs are snapped into tight metal shackles and the birds are immobilized (but not rendered insensible to pain) with electrified water. Next, the birds—still conscious but unable to move—have their throats cut open with a metal blade. Many miss the blade and end up at the next stage—the scalding-hot defeathering tank—while they are still able to feel pain.

Read PETA’s letter to Mepkin Abbey, which was sent before the details of the investigation were released.

What You Can Do

  • The best way to help protect animals in factory farms is to go vegetarian and encourage your friends to do the same. For great recipes that don’t involve cruelty to animals, please visit click here.

Update: Victory for Birds!

Mepkin Abbey has phased out its egg-farming business after facing pressure from PETA. In light of Mepkin Abbey’s decision, PETA will not pursue its complaints against the monestary with the State Attorney’s General Office and the Federal Trade Commission.

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