Secret footage taken by a leading vegan charity has discovered that ‘dead and decaying birds’ are left to rot among the living at three of the UK’s largest poultry producers.
Viva!, which specialises in undercover investigations and high-profile animal welfare campaigns, hid cameras at farms contracted to Avara, Hook2Sisters and Moy Park, poultry producers that supply meat to the likes of Tesco, KFC, Sainsbury, the Co-op and Lidl.
Findings from all three farms showed ‘the life of a ‘meat chicken’ was found to be short and brutal’, with many chickens dying of thirst or starvation. Others were found to have resorted to cannibalism out of desperation.
Warning: Some readers may find the following clip disturbing:
Footage from Haywood Poultry Unit, one of approximately 300 farms contracted to Avara Foods, revealed that some 30,000 birds had been crammed into one of 15 sheds, where they were observed ‘scrambling over each other – desperate for space’.
As per this report, ‘abnormally large birds’ could be seen collapsing, at just 38 days old, with their legs being ‘too weak to hold their grotesquely overweight bodies’. As a result, they are unable to reach food and water points, dying as a result.
The report continues:
Dead birds were also found trodden into the ground and covered with litter, which appear to have been left for some time.
Given the sheer number of birds in the shed and only two brief ‘welfare checks’ a day required to meet minimum standards, this is hardly surprising. Common causes of death on intensive farms like Haywood are heart attacks and respiratory distress, brought on by the birds’ rapid growth.
Similar findings were uncovered at Overbrook Farm, one of about 800 farms contracted to Moy Park, a producer that slaughters an estimated six million birds every week.
A number of bald birds were observed at Overbrook Farm, thought to be on account of ‘their stressful environment and aggressive feather–pecking’. Once again, footage recorded ‘countless dead birds, left to rot amongst the living’.
Feather pecking was also noted at Churchinford Farm, one of around 380 farms contracted to Hook2Sisters, the biggest poultry producer in Europe. Chickens were observed pecking at the numerous dead and decaying birds ‘due to a lack of adequate environmental enrichment’.
A number of birds were found ‘collapsed on the ammonia-rich litter that covers the shed floor with painful hock burns marking their raw skin’ while others exhibited what ‘appeared to be respiratory problems, collapsed and panting heavily’.
Veterinary expert Professor Andrew Knight has described the footage as ‘highly disturbing’, noting that the ‘animals are clearly suffering on these farms’:
I am concerned to see examples of cannibalism, feather-pecking and birds suffering severe feather-loss. These issues are commonplace in factory farms where birds live in cramped, overcrowded conditions which cause anxiety and stress.
The footage shows birds collapsed, struggling to walk and with splayed legs. These conditions are usually as result of the bird’s inability to carry their own bodyweight. Broiler chickens are selectively bred to speed up growth. They often struggle to walk due to severe lameness and excessive body weight.
According to Viva!, not only do these industrial scale farms cause ‘misery and suffering to millions of birds each week’ they also pose a ‘grave risk to public health’ and have serious knock-on effects for the environment.
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