Investigation reveals poor animal welfare standards in Uruguay’s egg industry
Groundbreaking footage entails NGO Sinergia Animal to urge retail giants to adopt better policies in their supply chains
An investigation carried out by international animal protection organization Sinergia Animal has revealed for the first time how eggs are really produced in Uruguay. Narrated by Uruguayan actress and musical artist Josefina Tomás “Clipper”, images show hens living in crowded metal cages among their own excrement and the dead bodies of other hens.
“The evidence collected shows a horrific reality, with several hens living in tiny cages, without being able to move nor open their wings fully. Many of those who die have their corpses left to rot among the living. The living conditions for these animals are just unacceptable,” says Romina Viscarret, communications manager at Sinergia Animal.
Time for retailers to change
Along with the release of the investigation, Sinergia Animal is also organizing an initiative called Uruguay Sin Jaulas, asking Uruguayan supermarkets Ta-ta, Disco, and Tienda Inglesa to ban the practice within their supply chains by gradually phasing out the sales of eggs produced in battery-cage systems and only selling eggs produced in cage-free systems. Other retailers in Latin America have already adopted similar policies, including Cencosud in Chile, Carrefour in Argentina, and WalMart in Brazil.
“Many companies have been stepping up and saying ‘no’ to cages, including in Uruguay. Uruguayan food brand El Trigal has just announced a cage-free policy and many international brands such as Unilever, Nestlé, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway have global policies that apply to the country. We are asking that Ta-ta, Disco, and Tienda Inglesa do not fall behind,” says Viscarret.
The organization’s campaign includes a huge billboard in the center of Montevideo on Italia Avenue, and an online petition that can be signed at uruguaysinjaulas.com.
The impacts on animals and humans
According to the Asociación de Productores Avícola Sur, around 3.1 million laying hens are farmed in Uruguay annually, of which 86% live in battery-cage systems like those exposed by the NGO. Because of their poor welfare conditions, these ‘conventional battery cages’ have already been banned in the European Union and some states of the US.
“These hens spend their whole lives in a space smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, and the lack of movement can result in severe injuries and painful diseases such as osteoporosis. The conditions prevent them from performing natural behaviors, which, as studies have shown, can result in a life of frustration,” explains Viscarret. “Evidence also shows that workers’ health can be harmed, as respiratory diseases due to exposure to dust and ammonia are common.”
Public health is also an issue of concern. A study by the The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that cage farms have a higher prevalence of Salmonella than cage-free ones. According to the World Health Organization, "non-typhoidal Salmonella spp. are estimated to cause 93.8 million cases of acute gastroenteritis and 155,000 deaths globally each year, approximately 85% of which are estimated to be foodborne."