A recent Mercy for Animals (MFA) investigation at New England’s largest egg producer revealed a list of cruelties few people would ever want to witness. Dead hens left to rot in cages with live hens. Birds, wildly flapping, kicked like footballs into manure pits. Cages upon cages of birds crammed so tight they can’t even spread their wings. The list of horrors goes on.
You’d think this would be the kind of obvious animal abuse few people would hesitate to condemn. But what was the agribusiness industry’s response? Unfortunately, more of the same defensive posturing that’s become as predictable as the results of a major league baseball player’s steroid test.
Rather than trying to distance itself from the investigated facility, much of the established ag order went on the attack, with one commentator actually calling MFA’s investigation little more than a “smear campaign.” Can you imagine? Instead of accepting responsibility and trying to find a way animals won’t be treated so horrifically in the future, they simply attack the messenger.
In addition to paradoxically calling videotaped evidence of their own facility a “smear,” the industry is dutifully pointing out that the investigated factory farm passed its recent third-party audit of the United Egg Producers (UEP) with flying colors.
As if that erases the investigation’s findings.
Such assurances bring to memory the fact that the now-infamous California slaughter plant investigated by The Humane Society of the United States for downer abuse had not only passed all its third-party inspections, but was actually awarded by USDA as the school lunch program’s “supplier of the year.”
Even if all of the UEP’s voluntary guidelines were being met, would that ensure a high level of animal welfare? The UEP program allows hens to be confined in battery cages so small that each bird is allotted less space than a sheet of paper on which to live for more than a year before she’s slaughtered. We’re not exactly talking about stringent standards here, needless to say.
Perhaps even worse, the factory farm released an incredible statement of defense, alleging that the investigator “stood by and videotaped rather than taking care of the birds or doing his job.” Unfortunately for these accusers, the video speaks quite differently. In fact, it shows the investigator complaining to supervisors about the problems, with the response from one bluntly summing it up: “It don’t matter.”
So, the story repeats. Another factory farm is exposed with irrefutable video evidence of heinous abuse, and the industry rushes to redirect attention from its own misdeeds and points the finger elsewhere. In fact, one industry spokesperson is now calling for what she calls a “counter movement” to in order to get “their message” out to the public.
If past is prologue, I don’t think we need to wonder too much what such a “message” will sound like the next time an exposé is announced.