A new Mercy For Animals undercover investigation into a McDonald's egg supplier, Sparboe Egg Farms, exposes the fast-food giant's secret ingredient: shocking cruelty to animals.

Hidden-camera footage taken at Sparboe facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado reveals:

  • Hens crammed into filthy wire cages with less space for each bird than a standard-sized sheet of paper to live her entire miserable life, unable to fully stretch her wings or engage in most other natural behaviors
  • Workers burning off the beaks of young chicks without any painkillers and callously throwing them into cages, some missing the cage doors and hitting the floor
  • Workers grabbing hens by their throats and ramming them into battery cages
  • Rotted hens, decomposed beyond recognition as birds, left in cages with hens still laying eggs for human consumption
  • A worker tormenting a bird by swinging her around in the air while her legs were caught in a grabbing device - violence described as "torture" by another worker
  • A worker shoving a bird into the pocket of another employee without any regard for the animal's fear and suffering
  • Chicks trapped and mangled in cage wire - others suffering from open wounds and torn beaks
  • Live chicks thrown into plastic bags to be suffocated

Common sense tells us that animals should be given at a minimum the freedom to walk, stretch their limbs, turn around and engage in natural behaviors. Yet, this McDonald's supplier deprives hens of even these most basic freedoms. After viewing the undercover footage, Dr. Sara Shields, research scientist, poultry specialist and consultant in animal welfare, condemned battery-cage egg production:

Battery cage operations are inherently cruel. The barren, restrictive environment offers no hope for an acceptable quality of life, and such severely overcrowded confinement would be unthinkable for any other farmed species. World-wide, there is increasing recognition that battery cages are simply not appropriate housing.

In fact, barren battery cages are so cruel that the entire European Union and the states of California and Michigan have banned their use. Additionally, leading food retailers, such as Whole Foods, Hellmann's, Wolfgang Puck and Subway, and hundreds of colleges and universities refuse to use or sell eggs from hens subjected to the inherent abuses of battery cages.

MFA is calling on McDonald's Corporation to end its use of eggs from hens confined in battery cages in the United States, as it has already in the European Union. As Dr. Shields states, "Animals are designed to move, are biologically prepared for regular movement, and will suffer physical consequences if they are not given the freedom to exercise."

Sadly, not a single federal law currently provides any protection to birds at the hatchery, on the factory farm, or during slaughter. Further, most states - including those in which this investigation was conducted - have sweeping exemptions for farmed animals, which allow for abuses to run rampant without prosecution.

As the largest egg purchaser in the United States, McDonald's has enormous power in effecting improved standards of care for egg-laying hens. Accordingly, MFA is also asking that McDonald's actively support a recent agreement between the United Egg Producers and The Humane Society of the United States that seeks to establish federal regulations that would provide hens enough space to turn around, as well as environmental enrichments, such as perches and nesting boxes. The agreement is a modest but important first step in establishing minimal standards for care of birds on a federal level. Sadly, Sparboe Egg Farms is aggressively opposing the implementation of even these meager reforms to reduce animal suffering.

While McDonald's has the moral obligation and purchasing power to lessen the cruelty suffered by the millions of hens who are abused and exploited to produce eggs for its restaurants, consumers also hold enormous power of their own in preventing animal abuse by adopting a compassionate vegan diet.

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