MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – A monastery will halt its egg farming business after claims by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that the trappist monks mistreated hens.
Father Stan Gumula of Mepkin Abbey said in a statement late Wednesday that pressure from PETA has made it difficult for the monks to live a quiet life of prayer, work and sacred reading. He said the monks were sad to give up "a hard and honorable work of which they are proud."
The monks admitted no wrongdoing in the statement, and a spokeswoman declined to elaborate.
The egg farm business will be phased out over the next 18 months, according to the statement.
"We will be looking for a new industry to help us meet our daily expenses," the abbot said.
Gumula told the National Catholic Reporter that the abbey produces about 9 million eggs a year, and that the product is delivered to retailers in the Charleston area. The abbey also has a store that sells the eggs.
PETA began its criticism of Mepkin Abbey in February, saying it had undercover video of thousands of hens crammed into small cages. The group also said the abbey's suppliers cut off the hens' beaks and killed off males.
On Wednesday, PETA announced plans to urge shoppers to boycott buying eggs from hens raised by the monks, using the holiday season to renew criticism. The group planned to hand out leaflets headlined "Cruelty to Animals is Un-Christian" at a supermarkets in Charleston and Columbia on Thursday.
"We're delighted to learn that Mepkin is getting out of the cruelty business, and we hope that we can work with them to remove the hens from these cages," PETA vice president Bruce Friedrich said. "No matter what the abuser's religion, it's wrong to abuse one animal, let alone 20,000 of them."