Target: Gene Gregory, President and C.E.O. of the United Egg Producers
Goal: To urge U.S. egg producers to end the cruel practice of debeaking birds
The process known as debeaking or beak trimming began in the poultry industry in an effort to prevent chickens and turkeys from injuring each other when placed in close confinement. But the practice is used most often with egg laying hens because chickens raised for meat are slaughtered at such a young age, cannibalism between these birds rarely occurs.
In beak trimming, the tip of the beak is cut or burned off with no pain medication causing trauma to the animal. Because the nerves of the beak are directly connected to the head and face of the chicken, the bird is thought to suffer more severely than was once believed by farmers who thought there were no nerves in the beak tissue. The poultry industry believes that because this pain is temporary, it was a justifiable way to prevent further pain and suffering in the flock caused by hens pecking and biting one another.
Research indicates that beak trimming causes lifelong sensory deprivation. Hens are born with a natural desire to forage by pecking at their surroundings. When placed in small cages, hens tend to pick at their feathers and the feathers of other hens as a method of satisfying this instinctual behavior. When the beaks are trimmed, the birds can no longer act on their natural instincts and suffer from high levels of stress as a result. Debeaked birds have difficulty grasping food and are incapable of preening themselves and their cage mates.
Ian Duncan, a poultry researcher at the University of Ontario said, “There is now good morphological, neurophysiological, and behavioral evidence that beak trimming leads to both acute and chronic pain,” including phantom limb pain. Poultry producers use the term “beak tenderness” to describe conditions that prompt advice about the need for deep feed troughs to prevent the wounded beak from bumping the bottom of the trough resulting in starve-outs. Machine operators are reminded to do the very tedious task of beak trimming carefully, because too often it is done carelessly causing eyes to be seared and blisters in the mouth.”
In instances where debeaked poultry hens have been rescued or retired to free range farms, the hens exhibit difficulty eating and are incapable of competing with other birds for food and water. They tend to remain distant from the flock and are thinner and more prone to disease than other birds. These facts give further credence to the belief that beak trimming has a lifelong impact on the wellbeing of the hens that are caused to suffer this mutilation.
Dear Gene Gregory, President and C.E.O. of the United Eggs Producers
Debeaking or beak trimming is not only dangerous and cruel but it is a form of mutilation that causes lifelong distress for egg laying hens. There are other methods of reducing mortality from chicken cannibalism including the reduction of the number of birds kept in a single cage and these methods should be considered before deforming animals in an effort to protect profits.
As president of an organization that represents the owner’s of more than 95% of the nation’s egg laying hens, you are in a unique position to help improve the health and welfare of these birds. Please use your significant power and reputation to help end the practice of debeaking in the United States poultry industry.
[Your Name Here]