The animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere is alleging a Denair egg producing farm that is promoted as a “certified humane” cage-free egg supplier was actually using practices that kept the hens in “horrific” conditions.
The group released details of an investigation conducted into Rainbow Farms in Denair that allege the chickens were so densely crowded they were being crushed to death by other birds. The group states they found piles of dead hens at the site.
Rainbow Farms supplies Safeway with eggs that are sold under the “certified humane” label from the Humane Farm Animal Care Program.
Direct Action Everywhere activists said they found records at the farm showing that at least 125 birds died in a single day from piling, where the birds are so confined they crowd on top of each other, crushing those on the bottom.
“Safeway and others like them are putting animals into horrific confinement where they end up killing each other,” said Direct Action Everywhere investigator Matt Johnson. “With or without a cage, it can never be called humane.”
Attempts to reach Rainbow Farms were unsuccessful.
While conducting the investigation the activists found one hen, which they named Scarlett, in dire health and in risk of going blind from being pecked so frequently. The investigators said they “felt morally compelled to remove” the hen and seek veterinary assistance. Today, Scarlett lives safely at an animal sanctuary.
“Safeway needs to be held accountable for what happens to chickens like Scarlett,” said Direct Action Everywhere investigator Paul Picklesimer. “They put the health and safety of both humans and animals at risk. We saw horrible animal abuse, the air alone was unbearable.”
Albertson’s, which owns Safeway, announced in March 2016 that they would be working with their suppliers toward a goal of sourcing only cage-free eggs for its store operations by 2025, based on available supply.
“We take our commitment to providing responsibly sourced products seriously, and that responsibility extends naturally into ensuring our suppliers uphold humane animal welfare practices,” said Albertson’s Chief Marketing and Merchandising Officer Shane Sampson in a press release issued at the time. “The transition to cage-free eggs will help us continue to provide a great, humane product to our customers while ensuring that our suppliers have ample time to prepare their operations to meet increased demand from retailers.”
Direct Action Everywhere activists argued the “certified humane” label “has weak and rarely-enforced standards” and that “birds who are in cage-free facilities are even more likely to die from piling than their counterparts in caged egg operations.”
In 2008 California voters passed Proposition 2, which requires that all egg-laying hens be housed in enclosures large enough to allow the animals to stand up, turn around, and fully extend their limbs. Producers had until 2015 to comply, though enforcement is left up to local law enforcement.