04/23/11 Life in a Cage

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Animal Friends reveals the methods of hen breeding and invite everyone to celebrate Easter without eggs

- The "enriched" cage breeding and the "intimate corner" are only a minimum of improvement considering the horror of the hens' living conditions

In 1999, the European Union enacted a law (Directive 1999/74/EC) on banning the notorious conventional battery cages. Their use will be forbidden starting from January 1, 2012, and so will be the distribution of eggs from such breeding facilities. In the "enriched" battery cages, hens will live in the same 550 cm2 of space, plus the additional commodities such as a nest, a perch, a bedding, and the equipment for hens to file down their claws, which will enlarge their living space to the miserable 750 cm2.

Even though it is a minimum of improvement for hens and the Croatian farmers had almost twelve years to adjust to the new regulations, they have been repeatedly pleading for the postponement of the obligation prescribed by the Rule Book on the Conditions on Farms and the Provisions for Animal Protection on Farms from 2005, which requires them to discard the old battery cages for laying hens only a year after Croatia joins the EU.

In Croatia, more than 90% of hens used for laying eggs live in terrible conditions in conventional battery cages. Some farms have cages that are more than 26 years old. In such cages, each hen has 550 cm2 at her disposal, which is the size of an A4 sheet. These hens spend their entire life within overcrowded wire cages, which are piled on top of one another. Owing to stress and extreme anxiety, hens tend to peck at one another, which is why their owners trim their beaks with red-hot metal. The hens’ bones become fragile and breakable because of the overproduction of eggs and the lack of movement.

The Croatian public often speaks with derision about the so-called enhanced cages, considering them luxurious places where hens will have comfort and intimacy. In fact, these are only minor changes that will make it possible to continue cramming hens into small cages, depriving them of the possibility to follow their natural instincts.

Experts have emphasized that the "enriched" battery cages are a marketing trick, aimed at the consumers who demand that animals raised for food should be treated more humanely. They have no significant benefit for the so-called laying hens, which is evident from the photographs and the video footage which can be viewed at www.prijatelji-zivotinja.hr.

Unlike Croatia, which tries to postpone even this minimum of change towards a better treatment of animals, European consumers demand that the distribution of eggs produced in the battery cage system should be banned without delay. Thus, the conventional battery cages have been completely banned from Switzerland and all eggs are produced in alternative breeding systems, whereby more than 80% of hens have access to open-air space. In Sweden, more than 60% of the production takes place in open-air cages and deep-bedding systems, while beak trimming is forbidden. Germany banned hen cages in 2007 and Austria has prohibited all distribution of eggs coming from battery systems.

Regardless of the cage type or the system of keeping hens, captivity has detrimental physical and emotional consequences for the animals. After they have spent their entire lives in cages and their "production" abilities have diminished, they are slaughtered. Besides that, it should not be forgotten that each year over five billion male chicks are killed. Several days after they are born, they undergo the process of selection and then they are ground alive or gassed as an unwanted "by-product."

On Saturday, April 23, 2011, at 12:00 noon, Animal Friends will organize a food tasting in Varsavska ulica on the corner of Trg Petra Preradovica. They will offer seitan "ham" and eggless Russian salad and sweets to the visitors in order to motivate them to celebrate Easter with healthy and tasty vegan meals.

Instead of eating animal meat and eggs, we can celebrate Easter with dishes of vegetal origin, which do not require exploiting and killing animals, do not pollute the environment, and are also beneficial for human health.

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