Monday, November 17, 2008

Cage Versus Cage Free

You can play a role in animal treatment - Opinions - You can play a role in animal treatment TimeSincePublished("2008-11-17-04:30:00","2008-11-17","Nov. 17, 2008");-->Karen Levenson

Dear Editor - Re: "Mutts comic strip unfair to farmers" (Guelph Mercury, Oct. 28).
Though farmers may not believe they are cruel to their animals, there is overwhelming evidence that intensive confinement severely compromises the animals' welfare. Canada's voluntary codes of practice codify practices where animals cannot turn around or stretch a limb.

yada yada yada

Consumers want cheap food, perhaps not realizing the cost to animals -- sensitive beings that suffer. Consumers can play a key role in the treatment of farm animals by buying eggs from cage-free hens and pork from sows kept in group housing.
-- Karen Levenson, director, Animal Alliance of Canada, Guelph

Unfortunately, if you are opposed to conventional egg and hog production, the two alternatives presented by the author above are not the answer. Animal scientists are unsure as to whether the cagefree alternatives are any better for the animal, and some argue they are worse. In the conventional system there are 5 hens cramped in a small cage. In a cagefree system there are thousands of birds cramped, but a little less cramped, in a barn. In the former, the birds have virtually no room to move but do not suffer much injuries from other birds. In the latter, due to the large flock sizes, birds are very frequently injured, cannibalized, and suffocated from swarming.

Would you prefer being jailed in a cell with one roommate, or set free in the jail-yard to be repeatedly beaten and raped? That is an illustration of the choice between cage and cagefree eggs, if you believe the cage system is inhumane. The story for the sows is similar. Note that I am not saying the cage system is akin to prison, I'm just trying to provide a useful analogy for consumers who are unhappy with modern cage systems.

Fortunately, there is a solution, and it is called furnished cages for eggs, and shelter-pasture systems as described by the Animal Welfare Institute for sows. If you are unhappy with modern livestock agriculture as it currently exists, these are unambiguous improvements.

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