I’m beginning to think the animal ag industry will never learn. Cattlemen took a beating in the aftermath of Hallmark. The hog business took a shot to the head via an HBO special shot on a hog farm in Ohio. Turkey growers were forced into some painful defensive maneuvers after three employees at Aviagen Turkeys, Inc. were charged with 19 counts of animal cruelty, including 11 felony counts. All three events were caught by hidden video which was then used to “expose” vile industry practices.

What animal rights group love to do is seek out these situations and try to paint the entire industry with the same broad brush. It doesn’t matter if the practices they catch on tape are anomalies or not, many in the general public have come to believe that they are heinous examples of business as usual and must be stopped.

Now another animal rights group with a hidden cam and the ability to use it is calling on the nation's largest grocery chains to post warnings on egg cartons that unwanted male chicks are ground up alive. It’s all right there on tape. Chicago-based Mercy for Animals is beating the P.R. drums, and finding a willing audience for their message.

MFA wrote to 50 chains, including Walmart, Whole Foods, Safeway, Harris Teeter and Trader Joe's, telling them that the tape "exposes one of the industry's best kept secrets — that the egg industry tears male chicks' bodies apart in grinding machines while they are still alive."

They suggest this cigarette pack-style label be placed on egg cartons: "Warning: Male chicks are ground-up alive by the egg industry."

"The violence that you will see is standard and acceptable within the egg industry, and consumers have a right to know about this cruelty so that they can make informed and compassionate purchasing decisions," wrote Mercy for Animals' executive director, Nathan Runkle.

A spokesman for United Egg Producers, a trade group for U.S. egg farmers, showed he doesn’t get it by calling the proposal "almost a joke." Mitch Head said Mercy for Animals had no credible authority, as well as questionable motives. "This is a group which espouses no egg consumption by anyone — so that is clearly their motive." The video does in fact end with a call for people to adopt a vegan diet, which eliminates all animal products — meat, eggs or dairy.

Mitch, you’re preaching to the choir. MFA’s questionable motives don’t matter to the general public. The video matters.

Hy-Line, the egg producer caught on tape, said they have started an investigation "of the entire situation," adding that it would have helped their investigation "had we been aware of the potential violation immediately after it occurred."

I’m betting the general public will never believe this ‘potential’ violation is a one-time thing. With a little nudge from groups like HSUS and PETA, they will be convinced that it is an on-going affront to animal welfare.

Yeah, I know. Groups like HSUS and PETA are nefarious schemers with an anti-meat agenda and astonishingly large budgets to further their cause. From time-to-time, we do make their job easier, though, don’t we?

The video follows the usual trail. A Mercy for Animals employee got a job at the plant in May and June then did his work with a hidden cam. I’ve heard that story all to often. One news report said the video shows a “Hy-Line worker sorting through a conveyor belt of chirping chicks, flipping some of them into a chute like a poker dealer flips cards.” Those chicks are then shown being dropped alive into a grinding machine.

Hy-Line said "instantaneous euthanasia" — a reference to killing of male chicks by the grinder — is a standard practice supported by the animal veterinary and scientific community. I’ll have to run that by my friend Temple Grandin.

Mercy for Animals claimed 200 million male chicks are disposed of ever year because they can't lay eggs and don't grow quickly enough to be raised profitably for meat. United Egg Producers confirmed the number and the reasoning behind it.

"There is, unfortunately, no way to breed chickens that only produce female hens," said Head. In what many on the radical animal welfare side will see as a casual dismissal of the issue and more fuel for their fire, he went on to say, "If someone has a need for 200 million male chicks, we're happy to provide them to anyone who wants them. But we can find no market, no need. Using a grinder is the most instantaneous way to euthanize chicks."

MFA’s Runkle said, "Is this justifiable just for cheap eggs? The entire industrial hatchery system subjects these birds to stress, fear and pain from the first day.”

To view the tape that is guaranteed to horrify the general public, click here: http://www.mercyforanimals.org/hatchery. It will take you to MFA’s web site. If you had rather not contribute to their online ‘headcount,’ they’ve also posted it on YouTube.

The bottom line: The industry ignores the potential damage these event can cause until the next damaging video tape surfaces. Then we see a steady drum beat of trade association people assailing the videos and the motives of the people behind them. As soon as the smoke clears, nothing more is said. It’s time to aggressively take this Bull s*&t by the horns and mount a consistent and industry-wide campaign extolling the sensible business practices and the contributions to society made by 99.9% of us.

Comments: CRJolley@msn.com

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Cattlenetwork.com and Agnetwork.com.