Chickens are sweet and intelligent birds who are shown to have capacities that are similar to animals that are regarded as highly intelligent. Chickens are capable of counting and basic arithmetic, able to perceive time intervals, and possess a number of visual and spatial capacities on par with other birds and mammals. Chickens also have their own distinct and unique personalities. They experience complex negative and positive emotions, and have shown emotional contagion that is indicative of empathy.¹
Unfortunately, an estimated 9 billion of these sweet, complex individuals are killed every year for food in the US, making chickens the most killed land animal for food in the US by far.²
All chickens – and all birds used for food – are excluded from any animal protection laws.2 The average chicken raised on a factory farm will live in a confined warehouse with around 20,000 other chickens and a space less than the size of a sheet of paper to move around. There is no grass or sunshine, or room to spread their wings. Chickens have been bred to gain more than 50 grams of weight every day. This unnatural rapid growth puts a strain on their legs and internal organs, which can cause numerous health problems, and many chickens are unable to even stand. By time they are around 42 days old, the chickens are sent to slaughter.
The chickens are packed inside crates where they travel up to 12 hours to a slaughterhouse through extreme temperatures without food or water.4 At the slaughterhouse, chickens are typically killed by shackling them by their legs upside down on a conveyor belt where they are then dragged through electrified water which paralyzes their muscles. Their throats are then slit, and they are put into a scald tank full of very hot water. Many chickens are still alive after their throats are slit and show signs of struggling while being scalded alive.4 Chickens can be killed at a rate of 140 chickens per minute, and because chickens have no protections, there is nothing to stop any amount of suffering chickens go through in this process.4
From the moment of hatching, chickens are harmed in the egg industry. Male chicks are worthless to the egg industry because they cannot lay eggs. Because of this, hatcheries sort males and females after they hatch. The males are then killed by being suffocated alive or ground up in a macerator. Globally, the egg industry kills 6 billion newborn male chicks every year.5
The female chicks are then sent to egg farms, where, due to genetic breeding, they will produce around 250 to 300 eggs a year. For context, wild hens only lay about 10 to 15 eggs per year.5 This increased egg laying depletes the hens’ bodies of nutrients and minerals and creates a physical strain that can lead to disease, infection, and even death. Ninety-five percent of all egg-laying chickens in the US live in battery cages that are so small they cannot even stretch out their wings. Typically, they share these cages with around 5-10 other hens. 5 To prevent chickens from pecking each other, most farmers cut off a portion of their sensitive beaks without any painkiller.
After about 12 to 18 months, the hen’s egg production slows down, and they are then sent to slaughter or gassed to death.6
The best way to stop this kind of treatment is to switch to a plant-based diet. There are so many amazing plant-based alternatives to chicken and eggs that you can enjoy without any of the cruelty.
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