In a recent fire on an Ohio egg farm, 250,000 hens died after they were left in two sheds that had the electricity knocked out in order to battle the fire. Once the fire was squelched, all the birds were “euthanized” (we don’t know how they were killed) because, according to a spokeswoman for Ohio Fresh Eggs, it was the “humane thing to do.”
First, take a minute to soak in the fact that there were more than 250,000 hens crammed into two sheds. Chickens on egg farms are packed into battery cages so tightly that they don’t even have enough room to lie down, and the cages are stacked from floor to ceiling. They have their beaks seared off without being given any painkillers, and for up to two years they endure relentless cycles of egg-laying. When they become too weak to produce eggs they are trucked to slaughterhouses, where their legs are slammed into metal shackles and they have their throats cut while they are still conscious and able to feel pain.
Animals who are crammed by the thousands into warehouse-like buildings are often out of luck when disaster strikes, because it’s not cost-effective for farm operators (and they certainly don’t care enough) to take the time to implement evacuation plans. The loss of life caused by fires, floods, and other disasters is all too common on factory farms.
Of course, any animal who has suffered through a tragedy like this should be given a humane release from pain, but the representative also declined to comment on the method that was used to kill these poor chickens. If it’s anything like the way many egg farms “euthanize” their male chicks—by leaving them to suffocate in plastic bags or by sending them through giant meat grinders while they are still alive—then I would say that “humane” isn’t part of the equation.
Written by Heather Drennan