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In his article on United Poultry Concerns’ (UPC) recent protest of factory farming (City Desk, “Coming Home to Roost,” 10/5), writer Howard Witt expresses amazement that egg-laying hens suffer terribly and that politicians such as Sen. Robert Byrd actually find cruelty to animals offensive. “We’re really not making this up,” concludes Witt, snidely.

Unfortunately, the obscene cruelty behind the egg industry is all too real. Ample documentation exists, provided by groups such as UPC and Farm Sanctuary, that the 300 million egg-laying hens in this country are confined in small wire cages, which typically contain four hens crammed into just 16 inches of space. The cages are so small that these birds can never even stretch their wings. The birds also suffer from sores and abrasions from constantly living in such stark cages.

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Because of the severe crowding, the hens have the ends of their beaks cut off with a hot knife, which slices through bone, cartilage, and soft tissue. This “debeaking” is done without pain killers. These birds live for a year in such conditions until, exhausted, in chronic pain, and “spent,” they are sent to the slaughterhouse.

By the way, Mr. Witt, have you ever considered that male egg-laying chickens (as opposed to “broiler”-type chickens) don’t lay eggs? Obviously, they don’t, and thus they are of no use to the egg industry. Newborn male chickens are simply tossed into the trash, where they die of suffocation and neglect, or they are ground up while still alive for use as fertilizer. So many millions of these male chicks are sent into the grinders that not all die immediately; some are only partially ground up and suffer a lingering death.

All this horror exists so that people can eat cheap eggs. Treat animals humanely and it might cost a few extra cents per egg—we can’t have that.

Hey, Howard Witt, we’re really not making this up! Next time you write about factory-farming issues, get off your lazy ass and do a little research. Sure, it takes some time, but maybe you won’t come across as such an ignorant, callous jerk.

Silver Spring, Md.