On September 16th of this year, just over a week ago, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) launched a national campaign publicly urging the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) chain of restaurants to start switching some of its eggs to cage-free.
If it is part of a fundraising strategy, this move is a no-brainer for the HSUS. But despite the hype around well-publicized, hugely-popular campaigns such as this one, “Take a Bite Out of IHOP’s Animal Cruelty” will do very little, if anything, to reduce the suffering of the hens whose freedom and lives are taken from them to provide the country of America with cheap pancakes.
After running similar campaigns against Denny’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Quiznos, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., the HSUS now publicly endorses these fast-food giants as being some kind of animal welfare forerunners. Likewise, when IHOP fulfills its end of the deal and ‘gives in to the pressure’, the HSUS (and many animal advocates) will help to promote yet another restaurant chain that profits from animal slavery by offering its customers a selection of artery-clogging meals consisting of fried body tissue and other products of extreme animal exploitation.
In fact, ironically, when you think about how many more eggs IHOP will use as a result of the positive exposure they receive when they fulfill HSUS’ request, one wonders if this campaign might actually serve to increase the suffering of hens.
On the surface, the campaign might appear to be a good idea, as far as improving the lives of non-human animals, who needlessly endure unthinkable suffering simply so human animals can maintain unhealthy and unjust eating habits. IHOP serves “over 700 million pancakes every year”. When you add to that the number of eggs they must use every year in omelets, scrambled eggs and other cholesterol-laden breakfasts, well… that’s a lot of eggs.
So surely, if the eggs being used at IHOP were cage-free, wouldn’t that represent a significant improvement in the lives of America’s laying hens? The HSUS would love for us to think so, but the reality is very different.
As one investigation website explains:
“The reality? Millions of young hens standing shoulder to shoulder in huge enclosed warehouses, forced to dwell day and night in their own waste, enduring air so foul that workers sometimes wear gas masks to prevent permanent damage to their lungs. Just like their battery-caged sisters, ‘cage-free’ hens are brutally debeaked, force molted (starved for [up to 14] days to restart an egg laying cycle), and, of course, slaughtered when they are no longer of use. Or, as one investigator discovered, if no buyer can be found for their ravaged bodies, they might just be packed into steel drums and gassed, the piles of their lifeless remains sent to a landfill or used as compost.”
What many people are also not aware of is that ‘cage-free’ and ‘free-range’ egg producers generally purchase hens from the same hatcheries as traditional egg producers. As the Huffington Post reported recently, half of the chicks born in these hatcheries, being male, and therefore useless to the industry, are considered a waste product of the layer-hen business. These male chicks are killed in unimaginably cruel ways, including being ground up alive or suffocated.
But if cage-free hens have such a remarkably similar life to battery hens, surely the HSUS, the largest animal advocacy group in the world must also know these facts? Of course they do. On the HSUS website itself, it is acknowledged that cage-free hens typically come from the same hatcheries, that hens still have their beaks burned off, may be subjected to forced molting through starvation, and are typically slaughtered at less than two years old, after being transported long distances with no food or water.
Yet the HSUS still claims that their cage-free egg campaign is a meaningful way to work toward eliminating animal suffering. They must believe this to be true. Or could it be that they see this as an excellent opportunity to solicit donations, while maintaining their public image as the world’s most popular animal welfare watchdog?
But surely limousines and six-figure salaries couldn’t have anything to do with it?
The tremendous suffering that results from industrialized animal agriculture certainly does ensure a fantastic business niche for an organization that profits from the public’s concern about the welfare of America’s non-human slaves. Perhaps that is why the HSUS doesn’t work toward ending exploitation in the form of animal farming, by running campaigns to reduce demand for products such as eggs.
When you consider the fact that IHOP also serves beef, chicken, bacon and of course, many items made from dairy milk (which, like eggs, is notorious for the cruelty involved in its production), it will be quite obscene if the HSUS ends up having anything to do with endorsing this kind of exploitation. However, since the same can be said of Denny’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Quiznos, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., I don’t see any reason why HSUS would have any moral objection to promoting the improved animal welfare standards of IHOP once they agree to ‘start switching some of their eggs to cage-free’.
I would respectfully suggest that supporters pay close attention to what happens at the end of this campaign, when IHOP concedes and HSUS ends the boycott. If it is anything like the public reconciliation of KFC Canada and PETA, then I imagine that IHOP, just like KFC, will also be ‘delighted with the agreement’.
As a result of the enthusiasm of animal welfare advocates and even vegans to promote supposedly ‘humane’ animal products, many trusting people have been duped into believing that ‘cage-free’ and ‘free-range’ labels indicate vastly improved conditions for the animals concerned. The reality is that these labels were invented as part of a carefully planned strategy to stem the tide of increasing public opposition to the cruelty inherent in all animal products.
If the “animal rights movement” would articulate a clearer message about the moral imperative of ending not just the worst welfare violations, but our use of animals in and of itself, then perhaps the rest of the consuming public would not be so completely confused about what it is we really stand for.
Call me whatever you will, but I do believe that all animals will one day be free. I believe it because I know in my heart that freedom is what all animals deserve, and despite the heartbreaking apathy and tremendous resistance of the general public, I still believe that where innocent beings are suffering, the truth will one day come to light, and justice will eventually prevail. Anything less than that would be letting us all down, because every single animal who suffers at the hands of her captors, whether we accept it or not, is a part of the moral community. It is wrong to exclude her from our circle of empathy, and however stubbornly we may ignore or protest that fact, we know that it is wrong. For that reason, as long as animals are suffering, we are all suffering. But… we don’t have to also be guilty. That choice is up to us.
NB: If you feel moved to speak up about this subject, please visit this ‘Twitition‘ using your Twitter account, and tell the HSUS to stop promoting cage-free eggs.