|PRESS CONFERENCE PRESENTATION|
Oral Statement by COK Investigator Miyun Park
Presented on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 at the Compassion Over Killing
Press Conference at the Washington Courtyard Marriott
Good morning. Thank you to everyone for joining us today. My name is Miyun Park, and I'm an investigator with Compassion Over Killing, a nonprofit animal rights organization based in Washington, D.C.
In early April this year, COK received an anonymous tip that animal cruelty was a routine part of business at International Standard of Excellence, a major egg supplier with facilities up and down the East Coast. We immediately sent a letter to ISE's corporate headquarters in Galena, Maryland, and requested a tour of its Cecilton, Maryland, facility. To this day, we have yet to receive a response.
When our request was ignored, we made the decision to investigate the factory farm on our own. Our initial visit was meant to be purely investigative, but we quickly realized that we would have to provide on-site assistance to many birds.
We made repeated nighttime visits over a monthdocumenting egregious cruelties in photographs and videosand contacted Cecil County state's attorney John Scarborough and notified him of the conditions at the facility, and we requested that ISE be prosecuted for animal cruelty. Mr. Scarborough responded that his office only prosecutes cases referred to him by the police or other investigatory bodies. So, we then contacted Sheriff Rodney Kennedy of the Cecil County police department and told him about the cruelty at ISE and asked that he refer the case to the prosecutor's office. To this day, Sheriff Kennedy has not gotten back to us.
Having no other options available, myself and three other COK investigatorsSuzanne McMillan, Lance Morosini, and Paul Shapiroentered ISE's Cecilton facility and rescued eight hens who were in dire need of immediate veterinary attention. These hens have all been seen by a veterinarian and placed in homes where they can now scratch the earth beneath their feet, feel the sun on their backs, and never again exist as mere profit-making tools for the egg industry.
For those of you who have never been inside a modern egg production facility, let me take just a quick moment to describe what we saw at ISE.
800,000 hens are housed in nine long shedseach nearly the length of two football fieldsand crammed into battery cages with up to ten other birds. The batteries are long rows of wire cages measuring 24-inches wide and 17-inches deepabout the size of a folded newspaper. And they're stacked one on top of another, reaching four tiers high. In cages with 9 to 11 hens, each four-pound animal with a wingspan of 30 to 32 inches is given about 40 square inches of floor-space, which is about half a piece of letter-sized paper. Obviously not even remotely enough to move about without disrupting her other cellmates, freely stretching her wings, exercising, or engaging in any normal chicken behavior. The hens spend nearly their entire lives in these metal cages.
Beneath each floor is a manure pit where hundreds and hundreds of feet of excrement are piled up, teaming with flies, maggots, and the decomposing carcasses of hens who managed to escape from their cages and ultimately fell and died amidst the manure. Live hens can also be found in the pits, with no access to food or water, and, if not found and carried back upstairs to be stuffed into a battery cage, will most likely die of dehydration.
As you can imagine, the air around the nine sheds is heavy with the smell of feces. The thickness of the stench is magnified exponentially once inside. And this is the air the animals are forced to breathe every moment of every day. In fact, breathing is so difficult, that gas masks hang on the walls for workers to protect themselves when in the sheds. Unfortunately, the hens don't receive that same relief from the nauseating stench and toxic ammonia emitted from the more than 100 tons of wet manure produced each day.
They're treated as mere commodities. Everything natural to them is denied. In fact, they aren't even allowed to produce eggs as they would in nature. In these windowless facilities, artificial lighting is kept on for 16 or 17 hours a day to unnaturally stimulate and extend egg production. And, today, as a result of genetic, chemical, and industrial manipulations, hens lay an unnatural number of eggs: about 240 to 250 each year, as opposed to the approximately 60 to 70 eggs the average domestic hen will lay.
Hens in battery cage egg facilities are constantly assaultedphysically and psychologically.
At birth, a significant portion of their beakswhich chickens use much like we use our handsare seared off with a hot bladewithout any painkillers. It's been well documentedmost notably by avian expert Dr. Ian Duncan of the University of Guelph in Canadathat debeaked birds are in chronic pain and distress. Debeaking is standard industry practice to reduce the impact of stress-induced aggression as well as to lower feed costs. According to an article in the industry publication Journal of Applied Poultry Research, debeaked hens suffer from reduced appetites and are unable to efficiently and effectively grasp their food, causing them to eat less and expend less energy than non-debeaked birds. So, it's claimed that the mutilated hens save the egg industry money. And we saw many birds with severe beak injuries.
The unyielding wire batteries cause many hens to become caught by their heads, necks, wings, and legs, in the bars of the cages, immobilizing them without access to food or water. We freed as many as we were able during our visits, but know with absolute certainty, that at this very moment, countless hens are trapped, dying of starvation and dehydration, inches away from food and water.
And, of course, the sheer number of animals in ISE's Cecilton facilityabout 92,000 hens in one shed alonemakes it impossible for prompt veterinary caregiving. But, because it's cheaper to let these hens die from illness and disease than it is to provide veterinary assistance, we saw bird after bird after bird with eye infections, cysts, and such severe feather-loss that it looked as if they had been plucked.
As you can imagine, the rate of mortality is very high given these cruelly taxing and unsanitary conditions. According to a report by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, for every 700,000 hens in a modern egg facility, 1,500 birds die each and every week in their cages.
And we saw dozens of these dead animals still trapped in their cages, forcing their former cellmates to eat, sleep, and exist in the immediate presence of their decomposing bodies.
We will now unveil the 18-minute documentary we produced about the investigation and rescue at ISE, followed by brief closing comments. Paul Shapiro, another COK investigator, will then be happy to answer any questions you may have.
[SHOWING OF COK'S DOCUMENTARY, HOPE FOR THE HOPELESS]
There is absolutely no federal legislation that protects these hens. In fact, according to the definition of "animal" as written in the federal Animal Welfare Act, hens are not even considered animals
But they are. They are sentient individualsas are wewho feel pain, have desires, and have a right to live free of exploitation.
The European Union has already banned battery cages because of their inherent cruelty, and a recent Zogby poll found that an overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of standard egg industry practices, including confining birds in battery cages.
We are calling on Americans of conscience to take a stand against animal cruelty by refusing to buy eggs. And we are calling on our government to stop ignoring the plight of factory-farmed animals. Banning battery cages in the United States is the first step to eradicating the view of animals as mere commodities, a view that has led to enormous and unconscionable suffering.
Our website, ISECruelty.com, went live today, and we hope you'll visit it.
Another COK investigator, Paul Shapiro, is here to answer any questions you may have.