The White House recently announced that its annual Easter Egg Roll event will feature "green" eggs. They'll come in a variety of pastel colors, but they'll all be "green" because they'll be made from Forest Stewardship Council--certified hardwood and packaged in environmentally friendly materials. Not only are these eggs better for the environment, they're also better for chickens. Everyone who celebrates Easter can follow the White House's lead and be green, not mean, by choosing faux eggs instead of chicken eggs this spring.
For hens who are forced to lay eggs, Easter is nothing to celebrate. Most of the eggs that Americans dye and decorate for the holiday come from chickens who are confined to f ilthy factory farm sheds containing row upon row of tiny, multitiered wire cages. These hens spend their lives crammed into cages with four to 10 other birds. Each bird's average living space is smaller than a letter-sized sheet of paper. Hens on egg factory farms never breathe fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or engage in any of their natural behaviors. They can't even stretch a single wing.
The birds are crammed so closely together that these normally clean animals are forced to urinate and defecate on one another. The stench of ammonia from the accumulated feces under the birds saturates the air and burns the birds' feathers. Disease runs rampant in the filthy, cramped sheds. Many birds die, and the survivors are often forced to live with their dead and dying cagemates, who are sometimes left to rot.
Due to extreme crowding, stress and boredom, the miserable hens peck at the only thing available: each other. Farm workers "solve" this problem by slicing off a portion of each hen's sensitive beak with a hot blade--without giving the birds any painkillers. Many birds, unable to eat because of the pain, die from dehydration and weakened immune systems.
The light in the sheds is constantly manipulated in order to maximize egg production. Periodically, the hens' calorie intake is restricted for two weeks at a time in order to force their bodies into an extra laying cycle. When hens are "spent" and their egg production drops at about two years of age, they're sent to slaughter, where their throats are cut open while they're still conscious.
Meanwhile, male chicks are considered worthless to the egg industry because they don't produce eggs and are too small to profitably be used for their flesh. So every year, millions of male birds are thrown into macerators and ground up alive or tossed into trash bags to slowly suffocate.
Luckily, kids don't care whether their Easter eggs came from a chicken. Having fun and spending time with family and friends is what matters, and neither of these requires real eggs.
Most craft stores sell paper or wooden eggs that are perfect for painting or decorating with crayons, stickers, glitter or markers. They are mess-free and won't crack if dropped, and kids can display them for as long as they'd like because, unlike real eggs, they won't rot. For kids who are dying to dye something, making tie-dyed T-shirts is always a hit.
Brightly colored plastic eggs are ideal for Easter egg hunts. They can be filled with candy, small toys, coins, stickers, love notes or any other small surprise you can imagine. They are inexpensive, can be reused year after year and are much more exciting for kids to find than a hard-boiled egg.
Real eggs aren't all they're cracked up to be. This Easter, why not follow the First Family's lead and have a first-class Easter celebration--without harming hens.
Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.