On June 12 the National Zoo opened a new exhibit,"Kids' Farm" [KidsPost, June 21]. With the help of a $5 million congressional appropriation, the exhibit targets children 3 to 8 years old. According to assistant curator Bob King, the exhibit lets kids "identify where some of their food comes from."

The zoo exhibit, however, presents a fairy tale picture of what conditions on commercial farms in the United States are like.

Myth: All of the chickens at Kids' Farm are given outdoor access, branches for perching and nesting boxes.

Reality: Ninety-eight percent of chickens in the U.S. egg industry live in overcrowded, barren wire cages.

Myth: A sign outside the chicken exhibit reads, "The farmer collects the eggs every day, either for food or for raising more chicks."

Reality: Eggs from 98 percent of laying hens in the United States are produced on automated farms and are never touched by a human hand until a consumer takes them out of the carton.

Myth: The chicken exhibit stresses the importance of dust baths for chickens.

Reality: Ninety-eight percent of egg-laying chickens in the United States have no ability to dust bathe, let alone flap their wings, forage, perch or even walk.

Myth: The ducks at Kids' Farm live outdoors during the day and have access to a pond. The sign outside the exhibit says that "ducks need water to keep their bills clean."

Reality: Most commercial duck farms in the United States raise ducks in sheds or solitary cages. The birds do not have any access to bodies of water.

Myth: The two cows at Kids' Farm live in a green pasture and are brushed daily.

Reality: Ninety-nine percent of cattle raised for beef in the United States spend months being fattened in overcrowded feedlots. In addition, they are routinely castrated and branded without painkillers.

The National Zoo should let the public know where our food really comes from by developing an honest exhibit.


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