70 million eggs
That’s how many eggs we eat during Easter week in Sweden alone. Eggs have become a symbol for Easter in many countries, just like the Christmas Tree and Christmas Presents on the Christmas Holiday and egg consumption. Many cultures embraced eggs as a symbol of rebirth when they adopted them into a Christian tradition. The practice of decorating eggs has also been around for many years, as early as the 13th century. Originating in Ukraine, the art of painting eggs is called pysanka.
There were lots of superstitions about eggs at Easter too. It was said that saving an egg from Good Friday for 100 years would turn into a diamond. Double yolks meant you’d get wealthy soon. Eating eggs on Easter was seen as a way to make people more fertile and stop them from dying, so they’d bless their eggs before eating them.
Maybe it’s time to have second thoughts regarding this Easter tradition. With Easter just around the corner, it’s essential to reflect on some of our holiday traditions and make conscious choices that align better with animal welfare.
To produce eggs on a large scale, many egg-laying hens are unfortunately kept in unfriendly and overcrowded conditions within battery cages in some countries like the USA. They are unable to move freely or engage in natural behaviors like dust bathing or nesting which can lead to numerous physical and psychological issues such as feather loss, bone weakness, and high levels of stress.
While the number of European farms with free-range hens has increased, in Spain, 93 percent of laying hens are still caged. Spain is one of the largest producers in EU with over 1000 farms and an average of 67,700 chickens each. Together with France, Spain represents about 25 percent of European production, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment. The cages are so small and crowded that hens cannot even spread their wings or exhibit other natural behaviors. On average, each hen has less living space than a standard piece of printer paper. Because of the living conditions, hens often die in their cages. They are sometimes left to rot in the same space alongside living birds.
Hens are known to display abnormal behaviors due to the extreme confinement, which can cause them stress. These include self-harm and cannibalism. To prevent such incidents from occurring, workers resort to trimming off a part of their beaks without providing any pain relief.
Fate of the male chicks
Male chicks, cannot lay eggs and unfortunately do not belong to the chicken breed that is commonly used for meat. It’s a sad reality that these adorable little creatures are deemed worthless by the egg industry and face the cruel fate of being separated from their female counterparts only to then be disposed of like mere trash – either suffocated or ground up alive using large industrial macerators.
This practice, known as male chick culling, is particularly inhumane and unnecessary.
Similar to the animal agriculture industry, factory egg farms have significant environmental impacts. The production of a dozen eggs results in 2.7 kg of CO2 greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. Apart from this, these farms release high levels of ammonia and carbon dioxide that can be harmful to both air and water quality. Manure that seeps into groundwater or runs off into surface water carries excess nitrogen and phosphorous, which can contaminate drinking water or cause algal blooms and die-offs of aquatic species. Additionally, large quantities of pesticides are used in the process which contribute further pollution to local waterways and surroundings.
Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, poses a threat not only to animals but humans as well. Certain strains of the virus can spread from wild waterfowl to domesticated poultry and other creatures that come into contact with infected birds. Industrial henhouses, characterized by cramped conditions and genetically similar bird populations, provide an ideal environment for rapid transmission and mutation of the disease.
As of February, 2023, the Bird Flu outbreak was responsible for the deaths of 58 million birds, either through direct infection or culling. The majority of these infections and deaths occurred in henhouses for egg-laying birds, risking a new pandemic.
After almost four years of the covid-19 pandemic, one would hope that it would be a higher priority, but despite knowing that it is only a matter of time before the next pandemic, which will most likely originate from the animal industry, humanity continues to put short-term and quick wins before animal rights and measures to prevent the next pandemic.