The Humane Society of the United States has released video taken at Iowa egg production facilities showing laying hens housed in battery cages.

In a Wednesday morning news conference hosted by HSUS in Des Moines, Iowa, Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and chief executive officer, termed the conditions and treatment of the hens ”terribly inhumane.” An employee of HSUS took the video over 15 days in February.

The video, taken at facilities managed by Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises, shows hens treated in a “demonstrably inhumane manner,” according to Pacelle. The companies are the second-and third-largest egg producers in the United States, according to HSUS.

The video shows hens that have become stuck in cages and unable to free themselves. “Time and again the birds become stuck in the cages,” Pacelle says.

The U.S. egg trade association, United Egg Producers, provides production standards for the egg industry, including a requirement of 67 square inches of space per bird, according to Pacelle. The HSUS claims that birds on the Rembrandt facility receive only 52 to 54 square inches per bird.

Pacelle said that HSUS is not citing deliberate malice on the part of workers, supervisors or managers involved at the facilities in the video. “Our argument is that these systems are terribly inhumane.”

“The treatment of these animals in these systems is unconscionable, it is inhumane and it should not be acceptable for a society that says it values animal welfare,” says Pacelle.

HSUS urges consumers to purchase “cage-free” eggs, which are eggs produced by hens that are housed in alternative production facilities. Pacelle says the European Union will ban the battery cage for use in egg production by 2012.

“Wal-Mart has gone completely to cage-free eggs for the retailer’s private label,” Pacelle says.

The video is available online.