The Dark Side of “Happy Eggs”
by Priya Sawhney
Moments before Sia passed away in my hands, I watched Hen Harbor’s operator Ariana demonstrate the painful process of draining fluid from a sick hen’s abdomen. Sia was sick from the broken eggs rotting inside her abdomen. Despite our efforts, Sia’s fragile body gave out. Fluttering in panic, Sia let her small head fall over, and her delicate body fell lifeless into my hands.
Ariana took Sia and embraced her with tears running down her face. As she does with every sick animal at Hen Harbor, Ariana had already spent thousands of dollars and countless hours on Sia’s veterinary care hoping against the odds that she could escape the fate that takes the lives of nearly all hens bred to lay eggs.
Why did Sia have to die? Because of speciesism. Because of the idea that it is okay to exploit someone and turn her body into an egg-producing machine for profit. Because of the idea that just as long as these hens live on “happy farms” and live in “large open spaces,” that it is okay to subject them to lives of slavery and exploitation, despite the devastating effects on their little bodies.
This is exactly the idea that The Happy Egg Company is marketing to the world. On its website, the operators claim that “their girls” are free to roam outdoors and lead happy lives. It even launched a deceptively-titled Hendependence Campaign to tout its ideas about hen welfare. But it’s a lie we shouldn’t buy.
Earlier this year, DxE released our investigation of a “certified humane” Whole Foods facility -- where we found suffering, mutilation, disease, and misery. As one of the investigators of the farm, I can tell you that there was nothing humane about this farm. Despite all its labels and claims of being “humane,” all the birds in there were no different from Sia. They all wanted to live but instead knew nothing but lives of darkness, confinement -- and, ultimately, painful, early deaths.
The Happy Egg Company proudly talks its being an “American Humane Certified egg producer.” Which means…nothing. A recent investigation by Mercy for Animals showcases the fraud of the label by exposing an “American Humane Certified” slaughterhouse.
I visit Hen Harbor often. I look forward to seeing the faces of the happy hens who have escaped the horror faced by billions of animals raised for food production. Despite the sense of peace and calm at Hen Harbor, I know there is a dark side to the lifesaving work done there. Ariana wakes up in fear daily that she may have to bury someone’s body. Despite the fact that most of the sanctuary’s hens will eventually die like Sia, Ariana fights for their lives in the same way a mother would fight for her child. Despite financial struggles and the grim fact that there will always be sick hens, Ariana spends thousands of dollars and countless hours every month getting all of Hen Harbor’s residents the necessary veterinary care. Even today, Ariana is caring for Pear Pear, a sick hen who is septic from eggs rotting inside of her.
As animal rights activists, we have a duty to challenge the fraudulent and meaningless “humane” labels with a powerful message of Animal Liberation, with a powerful message that all animals have an equal right to be safe, happy, and free.
When Sia died, she didn’t care whether the farm she came from was certified “humane” or if she had been allowed access to the outdoors. All she wanted was to live a life free from harm -- including the terrible condition bred into her that took her life prematurely. The egg industry stole her life -- a fact that all the fraudulent “happy hen” marketing in the world cannot hide.
We cannot let profit-seeking companies like The Happy Egg Company co-opt our words. Words we use to demonstrate our love for animals are being used by such companies to lure people into buying violence. But we will stand this no more. By taking nonviolent direct action to demand the end of violence against animals, we will stop speciesism.