This morning GAP coalition partner, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), released undercover video of deplorable conditions found at a major egg factory farm in Pennsylvania.
NYT writer Nicholas Kristof asks, "Is an egg for breakfast worth this?" He reports the investigator's findings:
Mice sometimes ran down egg conveyer belts, barns were thick with flies and manure in three barns tested positive for salmonella, he said.
In some cases, 11 hens were jammed into a cage about 2 feet by 2 feet. The Humane Society says that that is even more cramped than the egg industry’s own voluntary standards — which have been widely criticized as inadequate.
An automatic feeding cart that runs between the cages sometimes decapitates hens as they’re eating, the investigator said. Corpses are pulled out if they’re easy to see, but sometimes remain for weeks in the cages, piling up until they have rotted into the wiring, he added.
Kreider Egg Farms, with four facilities in the nation's third largest egg-producing state, produces 4.5 million eggs a day that end up on supermarket shelves. Comforting, right?
We're lucky that such an investigation is still legal in Pennsylvania, where the egg industry has a strong presence. But the nation's #1 egg-producing state, Iowa, recently passed Ag Gag legislation aimed at criminalizing the actions of whistleblowers who utilize undercover footage to expose what's going on behind barn doors. Utah also passed such a bill recently.
Ag Gag has become a state-by-state regulatory battle of Big Ag versus advocates of an honest and transparent food system. Undercover video – an essential tool for whistleblowers to safely expose problems – is under threat by industry groups that would rather not have anyone airing their dirty laundry.
Fortunately, two other top-ten egg producing states – Indiana and Florida – introduced but failed to pass Ag Gag laws. However, bills in Minnesota and Nebraska (also on the top 10 list) are still pending.
It's clear that agribusinesses are pushing this legislation in order to hide the unsanitary and abusive conditions that run rampant across the industry, as repeated undercover investigations by HSUS and others have shown.
FIC continues to fight against Ag Gag and keep you updated on threats to whistleblower voices being heard.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.