Larrabee: Trouble hatches for poultry industry

A few weeks ago in a Buffalo newspaper, I read an article entitled "Hatchery Practice Denounced" that was written as a response to an undercover video produced and released by a group called Mercy for Animals.

The film depicted a chick hatchery in Spencer, Iowa during the months of May and June 2009. In the video, chicks are shown dying on the factory floor in piles of eggshells after slipping through a conveyor belt, falling onto the floor alive after being scalded by a wash cycle and male chicks, discarded due to a lack of reproductive value, being thrown alive into a grinder.But is this common practice? Do the egg companies condone such actions?

According to both the trade group U.S. Egg Producers and the company owning the plant where the video was taken, Hy-Line North America, yes they do. Neither group disputed the claims, stating openly that they were common practice.

When it came to a defense, all the company did was point out that the video producer's avowed goal was to completely end egg consumption, and that the animal rights group wanted a warning reading, "Male chicks are ground alive by the egg industry" placed on egg cartons, and thus such a group should not be taken seriously.Personally, I don't care if the group's ultimate goal was to start a space colony on Mars populated solely by chickens.

The facts are the facts, and neither side disputes them. I also ask myself, with so much media coverage paid to Michael Vick and dog fighting recently, what if the football player had been running a cockfighting ring instead? What if he was just throwing chickens into a grinder in his basement for fun? Should we be less outraged?

As laughable as the group's suggested egg warning label may seem, what if, when groups were calling for warning labels to be placed on cigarette packages, the cigarette companies had come out and agreed that cigarettes kill? In this case, the egg companies do not dispute the validity of the claims, only that they do not want the public to know that the claims are true when purchasing their product.

What do you think would have happened if this were the stance of cigarette companies? I think we would have seen those warning labels on tobacco a long time ago.With all of this said, when I wander over to Letchworth this weekend for brunch, I know that I will still ask for the eggs. It may be wrong, but I love them. Given the fact that I know I lack the discipline to decrease the demand for eggs, the next logical step is to impede the cruel practices related to obtaining them.

With limited ideas of what exactly to do about this issue, I am appealing to someone far smarter than I: you. What do you think could be done on an individual or group level? Think about it. I await your ideas. If a society is truly judged by how it treats its animals…

[Editor's note: Go to to see the video in question]