The NY Times this morning had an article about chickens on the front page, “Wishing They All Could Be California Hens.” The article discussed a California law that requires cages for chickens “roomy enough to stand up, lie down — even extend their wings fully without touching another bird.” This law requires importers of eggs to meet these same generous standards, which has inspired potential lawsuits from out-of-state hen jailers. These larger California cages mean that you have about 60 hens in a cage the size of the back of a large pickup truck. In other states, farmers can continue to house chickens “in battery cages about as big as a filing-cabinet drawer.” The article compared this to “sitting in an airplane seat in the economy section all your life.”
Thinking about my hens with their protected coop, nesting area, and huge, bird-net covered yard, I thought the analogy for their life would be like flying first class, or maybe flying a private jet. But then, as I chopped up hay for them and turned over some of their run with a pitchfork so they could find and eat worms, I thought it’s more like Air Force One.
Why is it that big business is always trying to cheap things out at the expense of the animals we eat. They should listen to Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait, saying to his associates about their tuna fishing practices, “Wouldn’t you pay a nickel to save a porpoise?” I wish I had an orchard for my chickens, but for now, they leave in a comparative paradise, and the eggs we eat, with their rich orange yolks and creamy whites are nothing like an egg from a hen raised in a file drawer.