Famous People Pressuring Costco To Stop Selling Eggs From Caged Hens

In an effort to get Costco to jump on the cage-free bandwagon, famous faces have been coming out against the practice of keeping hens confined, urging bulk retailer Costco to change its ways. Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Bill Maher have all recently brought the issue to the attention of the public.

Last week, Maher penned a New York Times editorial titled “Free the Hens, Costco!”, in which he pointed out that the company had vowed in 2007 that it would change how it treats egg-producing hens… and it hasn’t.

“Multiple investigations into battery cages document animals with deteriorated spinal cords, some who have become paralyzed and then mummified in their cages,” Maher claims in the article. “Imagine cramming five cats or dogs into tiny cages, hundreds of thousands in each shed, for their entire lives. That would warrant cruelty charges, of course. But when the egg industry does it to hens, it’s considered business as usual.”

Meanwhile, Gosling and Pitt have been writing letters to the company, telling it that it’s time to change its ways. Last month Gosling sent a letter to Craig Jelinek, the chief executive officer of Costco Wholesale Corporation, which was posted by the Humane Society of the United States.

After describing video footage from the Humane Society’s undercover investigation that he says revealed the cruel conditions caged hens live in, Gosling accused Costco of deceiving its customers.

“Furthermore, it is appalling that Costco has been selling these eggs with deceptive labeling on cartons featuring graphics of birds living out in a green pasture,” he wrote. “You’re already eliminating cages for veal calves and pigs – don’t you feel that chickens also deserve the same mercy?”

Pitt was also in the mood to write, adding his voice to the hue and cry yesterday with a letter he wrote to Jelinek on behalf of Farm Sanctuary (an organization that advocates against the mistreatment of animals and factory farming, a group Maher also supported in his letter). He wrote about caged birds suffering atrophy of their muscles and bones from years of immobility.

“As you know, these birds producing eggs for your shelves are crammed five or more into cages that are not large enough for even one hen to spread her wings,” Pitt writes, according to the Associated Press.

Pitt and Maher both commended Costco for its other animal-welfare efforts, urging it to fulfill its pledge to uncage egg-producing hens.

“Nearly a decade ago, Costco indicated that its next step on this issue would be creating a timeline for getting those cages out of your egg supply, and yet today, you appear to have made no progress at all — even as you have set timelines for getting pigs and calves out of cages,” Pitt wrote, asking the company to set a timeline for ending its sale of the offending eggs.

In June, Costco noted that there are “vigorous debates about animal welfare and laying hens.”

“Some, such as the Humane Society, advocate that hens be ‘cage free,’ and not confined in cages. Some advocate that cages are safer for hens,” a statement read, acknowledging that it’s seen a bump in sales for organic/cage-free eggs in the last nine years.

The company has yet to specifically address any of the celebrities’ complaints directly, saying it is “committed to the ethical treatment of animals” and its code of ethics is part of the company mission statement.

Other food companies have been moving in the cage-free direction, with General Mills announcing recently that it will eventually only use eggs from cage-free hens in U.S. operations, and Dunkin’ Donuts said it’s considering a similar move. Back in 2012, Burger King promised it would stop using suppliers that caged pigs and hens.