Brad Pitt, an actor, humanitarian, and self-declared farmer, is stepping up for caged hens.

The 51-year-old became the latest big name, joining comedian Bill Maher and actor Ryan Gosling, to condemn retail giant Costco and their refusal to stop sourcing eggs from hens kept in battery cages.

"Nearly a decade ago, Costco indicated that its next step on this issue would be creating a timeline for getting those cages out of your egg supply, and yet today, you appear to have made no progress at all—even as you have set timelines for getting pigs and calves out of cages," writes Pitt in a letter sent on behalf of the animal rights group Farm Sanctuary. "As you know, these birds producing eggs for your shelves are crammed five or more into cages that are not large enough for even one hen to spread her wings."

battery cagesBattery cages like these are cruel and do not allow an animals to spread its wings or move around. (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)

Pitt goes on to detail the cruelty of such cages, including how muscles and bones atrophy from years of immobilization. He also explains how other big food firms –– from Burger King to Whole Foods –– have already recognized these facts and subsequently severed ties with caged chicken farms.

"I admire Costco’s many positive social commitments," he concludes. "You’ve shown great courage and integrity on a range of issues. Won’t you please extend that sensibility—and basic decency—to chickens?"

This latest condemnation of Costco's animal welfare policies comes after an undercover video taken by the Humane Society of the United States showed deplorable conditions inside Hillandale Farms, one of the retail giant's biggest suppliers. HSUS said that in addition to birds locked tightly in cages, they were also forced "to share cages with the mummified remains of their dead cage-mates, fly infestations, and deteriorating facilities."

In his own letter, actor Ryan Gosling took issue with not only the animal cruelty, but also the rosy conditions with which Costco depicts their environment.

“It is appalling that Costco has been selling these eggs with … cartons featuring graphics of birds living out in a green pasture," he wrote. “You're already eliminating cages for veal calves and pigs – don't you feel that chickens also deserve the same mercy? So many corporations are meeting public demand for more humane products and transparency in the food chain. I sincerely hope that Costco will set plans now to go completely cage-free for its eggs."

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Brad Pitt tells Costco to end cruel conditions for chickens
Actor urges the retail giant to follow other companies in moving away from suppliers who keep hens in battery cages.