New Delhi, India, 1 September 2010 (AFP) - The Dalai Lama has condemned battery hen farming and is urging consumers to switch to buying eggs from chickens kept outside of cages, a statement said Wednesday.
"Turning these defenseless animals into egg-producing machines with no consideration for their welfare whatsoever is a degradation of our own humanity," the Buddhist spiritual leader said.
"Switching to cage-free eggs would reduce the suffering of these animals," the Dalai Lama said in the statement issued in support of a campaign against battery hen farming by Humane Society International.
Most caged birds have less than the size of an A4 sheet of paper as their living space, noted the Dalai Lama who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.
"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.
The Dalai Lama's statement comes as animal rights campaigners around the world have been pushing for an end to factory egg farming.
Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Norway have already banned battery hen cages. European Union countries are phasing them out and there will be a total ban on the farming practice by 2012.
Cage-free does not always mean "cruelty-free" but cage-free hens generally have 250 percent to 300 percent more space per bird and are able to act more naturally than caged hens, said a Humane Society spokesman.
India's factory farms confine 140 to 200 million hens in battery cages, according to Humane Society estimates, and there is little "cage-free farming."