Some of us felt pretty cooped up over break. There isn’t that much to do, your parents want to spend every waking moment watching home videos, and your siblings have taken the family car. Now imagine your family of five living in a box just under nine by nine by nine feet—not just for break, but for your whole life. Those are the dimensions your home would be if you were one of the battery cage hens producing the eggs that make omelets and breakfast sandwiches in Emerson’s dining hall.
Not happy with that information? You are not alone.
Over a third of Emerson’s graduate and undergraduate student body—1,400 students—have signed a petition calling for cage-free eggs in the college’s cafeteria.
Unfortunately this staggering percentage has not inspired much urgency.
According to Vice President of Public Affairs Andrew Tiedemann, a negotiation with the school’s food provider Aramark cannot take place until their contract is up for review in June. Until then, students can request cage-free eggs, but the default will not change.
That’s cracked. And it sounds more like bologna than eggs. The college, as an employer, probably has more leverage than it cares to admit. Other colleges Aramark serves, including Vassar College and the University of Minnesota, no longer purchase battery cage eggs. Should it continue its inaction, little will change in our kitchens this semester. Meanwhile, our college will continue contributing to needless animal suffering.
The ethics of battery cage eggs is hardly worth discussing. It’s a hideously cruel practice and furthermore a disgusting way to produce something intended for consumption. The whole European Union figured that out back in 2009 and has since banned the practice.
But perhaps more importantly, this series of events leads us to question whether Emerson takes the concerns of its student body seriously. If contractual barriers are as impenetrable as the college claims, we should at least receive a promise that, come June, changes will be made.
The good news is we can take a stand now, without the support of the college, much like David Coman-Hidy and Chris Guinn did last semester when they launched their campaign for cage-free eggs. We’re consumers too, after all.
If you don’t want to support battery cage eggs, don’t. Ask for cage free eggs when you’re having your breakfast made or opt out of eggs all together. Then tell your friends to do the same. Last semester 240 of the 1,800 eggs served to students between November and December were cage-free. Let’s swap those numbers.
That’ll ruffle their feathers.