Guelph to stop using eggs produced by caged hens

Western considering switching to serving free-range eggs

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Following a student advisory committee’s recommendations, The University of Guelph, the nation’s top agricultural university, will become Canada’s first university to stop using eggs produced by caged hens.

Ninety-eight per cent of Canada’s egg-laying hens are kept in wire battery cages, where several hens are crammed so tightly together they can barely move, said Bruce Passmore, farm animal welfare co-ordinator for the Vancouver Humane Society and a leader of the Chicken Out project, a national initiative to end the use of battery cages.

“Scientists around the world agree that hens suffer a great deal in battery cages,” Passmore said. “No compassionate human could look at images of these hens suffering and think these practices should continue.”

Over 90 universities in the U.S. and many European countries have already banned battery cages, Passmore said.

Passmore and the Vancouver Humane Society offer Canadian university students support campaigning for the ethical treatment of animals on campus.

Passmore, a Guelph graduate, helped Guelph Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in its two-year campaign urging Guelph’s Hospitality Services to switch from caged hen-produced eggs to certified organic free-run eggs.

Misha Buob, third-year biology student and a member of GSETA, said the group saw an opportunity to make a difference.

“Chickens are arguably the most abused animals in Canada and suffering is unacceptable no matter what species it’s happening to,” Buob said.

Buob said GSETA surveyed 300 students and asked whether they would be willing to pay 20 cents more per egg in residence and on-campus dining areas.

The group received mainly positive feedback and the issue was voted on and passed by the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee which represents students, staff and administration.

David Boeckner, executive director of Guelph’s Hospitality Services, said the university plans to implement the changes in September, adding the change will only affect whole eggs used in foods such as omelettes and egg sandwiches, not liquid eggs used in baked goods.

“I’m very disappointed with Guelph’s decision to take away its students’ choice,” said Harry Pelissero, a third-generation egg farmer and general manager of Egg Farmers of Ontario.

“The last time an institution took away people’s choice, the Berlin Wall was up.”

He said many Canadian and American studies show hens don’t suffer in cages, adding cages protect hens from predators, harsh weather and abuse from other birds.

Pelissero said he hopes Guelph students will speak up and ask Guelph to reconsider taking away their freedom of choice.

“A survey of 300 students is hardly representative of the wants and needs of a population of 17,000,” he added.

Frank Miller, director of Hospitality Services at Western, said switching to free-range eggs is being discussed internally.

“We’re always trying to keep track of trends across the country,” he said.

Miller said Western uses Omega-3 eggs upon the recommendation of Western’s nutritionist but he’s meeting with Guelph’s director of Hospitality Services to see if its initiative could work at Western.

“Ultimately, we want to listen to students and let them have their choice,” Miller said. “These eggs do cost more, so we still have to do our research.”

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