Eggs in Knesset Eateries and The Free-Range Myth
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin is considering banning the use of factory-farmed eggs at the parliament's eateries and instructing them to use free-range and organic eggs instead ....While Rivlin seems well-intentioned, it's debatable whether free-range eggs are substantially less cruelly produced than conventional eggs from hens in battery cages. In the U.S., labels like "free-range" are poorly defined, and well-intentioned consumers aren't necessarily buying what they think they are. If a huge shed houses thousands of birds in tight quarters and has a tiny door that allows a small fraction of the birds access to an outdoor fenced-in area, an American egg producer can label eggs from those birds as "free-range." This might be better than the horror of battery cages, but I avoid eating all eggs because a seemingly better alternative isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The Knesset speaker told Anonymous [an Israeli animal rights group] that he has instructed Dan Landau, the Knesset's director-general, to check whether the change to free-range eggs can be made during the signing of the next contract with the owner of the parliament's eateries.
I didn't want to assume that the situation was identical in Israel, so Tel Aviv–based Pete Cohon (the founder of VeggieJews) referred me to more information. I don't know with certainty how reliable information from the Israeli animal rights group Shevi is, but it's the best source that I'm currently aware of.
Shevi notes that in Israel, regardless of whether eggs come from "free-range" birds or birds in battery cages, the birds are still subject to appalling abuses. Hens have their sensitive beaks seared off with hot blades (i.e., debeaking), and male chicks, who cannot lay eggs, are typically killed right after birth. Hens are slaughtered when their egg production declines to the point where it's no longer profitable and are generally slaughtered in the same conditions as birds in the conventional egg industry. Shevi adds:
The hens are genetically bred to lay as many as 300 eggs per year instead of the 12-20 that they would naturally lay. In addition, the eggs they are bred to lay are larger than the tube that the eggs go through in their bodies, so each laying is accompanied by pain and pressure being applied to their inner-organs around the tube to the extent that sometimes some of their inner organs fall out of their body.Shevi concludes, "The attempt to compare between the types of ways to produce eggs and to conclude to buy free-range eggs because the 'regular' techniques are too cruel is a failed attempt, because the decision of whether or not to buy free-range eggs is a decision in and of itself. ... [W]e can be vegan and not have to choose between the lesser of the evils and which hens suffer more."