Students at the University of Guelph will get a taste of freedom when they enjoy products made with eggs this September.
Guelph is the first Canadian university to approve a policy banning the use of eggs produced by hens kept in battery cages from all its food services as part of the Chicken Out! project, launched by the Vancouver Humane society.
"The science is clear on this," said Bruce Passmore, a Guelph graduate and coordinator of the Chicken Out! project. "Hens suffer in cages. They are unable to flap or stretch their wings. Their feathers often rub against the cages or other birds and chafe off. Sometimes they can't even stand fully or raise their heads."
The project seeks to alleviate the suffering of hens in factory farms across Canada by pressing Canadian universities to choose free-range, free-run or certified organic eggs to supply their food services. While Passmore hopes this will set a precedent to improve conditions for all farmed animals, the project focuses primarily on egg-producing hens.
"We're focused on eggs because a viable alternative is already immediately available," said Passmore. "We're working on the demand side--if consumers switch to free-range eggs, the industry will respond. We've already seen that in the increasing demand for organic produce."
The University of Guelph made the switch after deplorable conditions were discovered in an undercover investigation of a farm belonging to a poultry veterinarian linked to the university. The results of the investigation spurred the initiative in Guelph and Misha Buob, a member of the university's Hospitality Services advisory committee and supporter of the Chicken Out! Initiative, is hopeful other Canadian universities will follow suit.
"We're trying to get the ball rolling on this," said Buob. "We're hoping this happens all across Canada."
The University of Calgary has yet to express interest, but the University of British Columbia, Langara College, McGill University, Concordia University and the University of Ottawa are looking into instituting similar policies. According to Buob, Canada is lagging behind when it comes to the welfare of hens.
"Most animal welfare groups agree we're behind on this issue," said Buob. "The European Union has banned the use of all battery cages by 2012. Over 100 universities in the United States have already done this."