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"Endless Buffet for Bald Eagles" Case Resolved


The late Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) who passed away in 2005, was renowned for his award of the Golden Fleece to any Federal agency or government official or contractor wasting taxpayer money and resources. If he were with us today he would most certainly consider the ruling of the National Appeals Division of the Farm Service Agency a worthy recipient.  This body recently awarded $2.2 million to White Oak Pastures in compensation for the loss of 160,000 free-range chickens over a number of years from predation by bald eagles.  Adapting from their traditional hunting practices which include stealing fish from ospreys and occasionally dipping their talons into water, our national symbol has adapted to lifting chicken from pasture.  There are approximately 75 resident bald eagles on and around the White Oak Pastures Farm extending over 3,200 acres.  The ruling has created a precedent which would allow compensation for the loss and destruction of poultry by protected raptors.


Will Harris owner of White Oak Pastures stated “We are extremely grateful that the National Appeals Division ruled in our favor and recognized our right to fair compensation for our losses.”  He added, “We are proud to be a working farm committed to doing what is right for the land and our animals and appreciate the recognition that the FSA acted improperly when it denied our claims.”


Pasture ranged hens are presumed to be “happier” than hens confined to barns.  Given a random sample test in North Carolina which showed that up to 50 percent of hen populations die as a result of predation and disease on pasture and that White Oak Pastures can document the loss of 160,000 chickens suggest that free-range production is not as welfare-friendly as confinement in barns. 


Chickens are derived from jungle fowl which have as their natural habitat tropical forest which provide a canopy to protect them from raptors.  Commercial hens are subject to stress when forced to access pastures without the benefit of cover from foliage or shade cloth.  This is evidenced by flocks preferring to remain in the proximity of their barns effectively congregating on soil and mud rather than grass as portrayed in the social media and on carton images.


Hens are a defenseless source of food for both raptors and vermin.  The fox population in Germany soared following introduction of free-range egg production.  Free-range systems can be regarded as less than ideal with respect to welfare, sustainability and egg safety.