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Chronicle No. 4

When chickens prefer cages...

Whenever we buy a box of eggs that does not bear any mention of the breeding method, we can be sure that these hens were raised in a battery. That is to say that they are four in a cage of 40 cm side, constantly lit by artificial light, and their life expectancy does not exceed one year. They take six weeks instead of six months to reach their normal weight. They are administered tranquilizers, antibiotics, all kinds of drugs that will be found in the egg, and their beaks and claws are amputated. After slaughter, their carcass is used to make broths and ravioli.

In France, 50 million laying hens are sentenced to life imprisonment. As for the male chicks, they are gassed or ground alive in order to be transformed into animal meal.

In a corrosive work, Les Poules prefer cages (Albin Michel), Armand Farrachi humorously points out that "scientists" who have studied several groups of hens for "long years" have found that poultry raised in battery were not bothered by their cage, but that on the contrary they were safer there than elsewhere.

And Professor Jean-Michel Faure, of the National Institute of Agronomic Research, who very seriously conducted a long study on the "Space requirements of the laying hen", concluded that a larger surface area does not correspond to a need for hens. Thus, certain scientists dare to affirm any stupidity with a superb which has of equal only their ignorance. It goes without saying that the professional agricultural journals took up the words of this "scholar" with delight and, on the strength of his assertions, denounced the "excessiveness" of the animal protectors. Moreover, some INRA researchers are calling for the selection of animals that are less fearful and more resistant to the constraints of breeding.

Chickens are not the only victims of this system of overproduction. All edible animals suffer the same fate. In this competition without limits, it is essential to raise a calf in less than three months and it must then reach one hundred and fifty kilos. To succeed in this tour de force, all you have to do is listen to the advice of specialists by overfeeding the animals that are taken from their mothers at birth. So that their meat remains white and tender, they are imprisoned in boxes of 1.2 m by 0.65 m in which they cannot move, without straw, fed with the only milk provided by the cooperative. They are deprived of light, and, quite legally, they are administered antibiotics to fight the proliferation of infectious diseases, which allows bacterial strains to become resistant to antibiotics. Moreover, in this concentration camp universe, it is common for these animals to develop aggressive, even hysterical behavior.

In the past, it was estimated that one hectare was necessary to fatten 40 pigs; now there are more than 5,000 piled up on the same surface in the middle of their droppings and must be reared in six months. As for the sows, they are kept on the ground by straps throughout gestation and lactation. But, like the "chickens who prefer cages", according to an agricultural engineer: "The tethered sows, pregnant or lactating, do not show any discomfort, seem completely happy and even, dare I say, by anthropomorphic irony, smiling." One could not invent such nonsense.

However, let us be reassured, the Council of European Ministers of Agriculture has decided to ban these sow stalls from 2012 for all farms in the European Union. Who claims that we are inhuman in our behavior? In the meantime, these sows will have to continue to suffer their martyrdom, but aren't they "merchandise"? Goods cannot have a state of mind! Enjoy your lunch !

Sylvie SIMON

(All rights reserved ©  SPRING 2005)

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