Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Wednesday expressed distress over the confinement of egg-laying hens in tiny battery cages and urged for an end to the fowl-abuse.
In a statement, the Nobel laureate decried the cruel treatment meted out to hens by the egg industry and urged people to switch over to eggs produced by cage-free hens.
"The abuse we inflict on hens has always been particularly disturbing to me and I have always been particularly concerned toward how these animals are treated in industrial food production," he said.
Expressing his pain over the practice of confining egg-laying hens in tiny cages, the Dalai Lama said that in such cages, the birds cannot engage in their natural behaviour like spreading their wings, perching, scratching the ground, standing on a solid surface or laying eggs in a nesting area.
"Each hen has less space to live than the sheet of paper I have written this letter on. Turning these defenceless animals into egg-producing machines with no consideration for their welfare whatsoever is a degradation of our own humanity. Switching over to cage-free eggs would reduce the suffering of these creatures," he urged.
The Dalai Lama's statement comes as part of a major international movement against cruel and inhumane cages that is taking root against factory egg farms, including a campaign by the Humane Society International.
Countries like Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Norway have already banned battery cages that confine hens.
Other countries, including those in the European Union are phasing out battery cages and there would be a total ban by 2012.
In the US, while states like Michigan and California have passed similar laws to sell cage-free eggs by 2015, agriculture leaders in Ohio have agreed to a moratorium on the construction of new cage facilities.
Contributing to the efforts, major US corporations ranging from Burger King to Safeway are switching over to cage-free eggs.
In India, Crowne Plaza Today (Gurgaon) and specialty restaurant Hao Shi Nian Nian have already shifted to cage-free eggs.
The situation in India is quite glaring with factory farms confining between 140-200 million hens in barren battery cages. Each bird is forced to live in a tiny space for over a year before it is slaughtered.
Besides, factory farms that confine over 50,000 birds in a single shed are increasingly common.
In the statement, the Dalai Lama said that while cage-free does not mean cruelty-free, cage-free hens generally have 250 percent to 300 percent more space per bird and are able to act more naturally than caged hens.
"Cage-free hens may not be able to go outside, but they are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests - all behaviours denied to hens confined in battery cages," he said.