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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Appreciate a step in the right direction

Published: October 22, 2010
Section: Opinions

Last week, in the midst of classes, homework and, most irritatingly, midterms, I—along with every other Brandeis student—was bombarded via petition, flyer, e-mail and Facebook messages about the new initiative of the Brandeis Real Food Coalition to switch Brandeis Dining Services’ usage of factory-farm eggs to an exclusive usage cage-free eggs.

Not surprisingly, I—along with every other Brandeis student—engaged in a number of conversations about this same topic. During these conversations, I was surprised to find that a remarkable number of Brandeis students are opposed to the switch. I can’t help but wonder why so many students are reacting so negatively to the idea of making this simple and seemingly positive change in the name of animal welfare.

When prodded about their opposition, those in question would cite reasons ranging from an unwillingness to cough up extra cash to an apathy about the issue of ethical eating to—in my opinion, the most flummoxing reason—a disappointment with the fact that cage-free eggs aren’t a big enough improvement upon our current dining system.

While I can understand discomfort with paying more money and a lack of knowledge on the topic as valid excuses for opposing the switch, I cannot grasp the idea of dismissing the change as irrelevant because it isn’t a significant enough change.

The Humane Society states on their website that hens not living on factory farms lead lives with a “significantly improved level of animal welfare than do battery cage systems.” Isn’t this fact alone enough to motivate us as a community to make the switch to cage-free eggs?

While it’s true that cage-free doesn’t mean cruelty-free, it does mean that the birds will be able to stand up, walk around, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests, as opposed to living all of their adult lives in cages smaller than the size of a piece of printer-paper.

Why can’t this step in a good direction be appreciated as just that? Nothing more, nothing less.

Why are students, who say that they are supporters of animal welfare, against this move towards more humane food service at Brandeis? All of the people who sit around complaining that cage-free eggs aren’t a big enough change should instead work together to make something better happen. But if you aren’t willing to do the work yourself, at least vote for the cage-free eggs.

Seth Grande ’12, a member of Real Food 2020, is one of the coordinators of the cage-free egg campaign.

When asked why the change is an important one to make—especially at Brandeis—he responded: “The conditions that chickens confined in battery cages live in are not consistent with the ethics that Brandeis students hold and the ethics that the university strives to uphold.

In the current system, chickens are viewed as capital and not as animals the way that we would view a cat or dog and that’s just wrong. Because the eggs cost as little as 25 percent more, chickens are confined in cages that prevent behaviors as simple as walking and spreading their wings.”

Luckily, most of the Brandeis student body agrees.

The students have spoken and they are overwhelmingly in favor of cage-free eggs. Results from the first poll have been posted and of 877 students who took the survey, 781 voted in favor of the switch to cage-free!

However, as encouraging as those results were, Student Union has put out another poll on the main page of their website, to serve as a final test of students’ passion for cage-free eggs.

The poll asks if Brandeis students would be willing to pay an additional twenty dollars—it doesn’t clarify whether this means per semester or per year—to ensure the switch to cage-free eggs.

It seems that the results of this final poll will be the deciding factor on whether the cage-free egg campaign will live or die.

I am not sure when the results of this final poll will come out but I am certainly hopeful that Brandeis students will support this step in the right direction.

I—along with every other Brandeis student—am eagerly anticipating the decision of the Brandeis students, Student Union and Administration on this important issue.

Stay tuned!