The cruel tradition of capons at Christmas

© Essere Animali

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The cruel tradition of capons at Christmas



Francesco Ceccarelli
Head of investigations

Animals deprived of food for 24 hours and surgically castrated without anaesthesia and pain relief: our investigation on a capon farm, raising animals used for the preparation of traditional Christmas broth.

The terrible images, filmed undercover, come from a farm specialising in the production of capons (male chickens used for food). Located in the province of Milan, the company supplies individuals, restaurants and butchers. The national consumption of capons increases exponentially at this time of year, leading to the slaughter of almost one million animals in the month of December alone.

Watch the investigation

The investigation documents various problems, including the cruel practice of ‘caponisation’: the removal of the testicles of male chickens before they reach sexual maturity with the aim of improving the taste and quality of the meat. The surgical castration of capons is a dangerous and invasive operation that can cause the death of 20% of the animals. The chickens are deprived of food for about 24 hours and water for about 12 hours before the operation, thus causing them additional stress.

Castration of chickens
On this farm, castration is performed without anaesthesia and painkillers.

As can be seen from the images, during ‘caponisation’ the animals are trapped with their wings open and their rib cage exposed on two wooden slabs, then the worker makes a cut with the scalpel and uses forceps to remove both testicles in turn. In chickens, these organs are located very close to the intestine and the surgical operation therefore increases the risk of irreparable internal injuries. In addition, according to good farming practices, the wound caused by the scalpel should be disinfected immediately after the operation and closed using surgical staples. In the farm under investigation, only antibiotics are administered as a preventive measure but, due to the wound remaining open, there is a significant risk of infection also in the following days due to contact with the external environment.

The slaughter of capons Graphic images Click to watch
The animals were not stunned during the slaughter procedure.
© Essere Animali

When they reach the weight of 3-4 kg, the animals are slaughtered by being inserted upside down into a plastic cone. Their necks are then broken with the use of pliers and their throats are subsequently cut. This system is considered problematic by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) because there is a risk that it does not lead to the immediate stunning of the animal, and that the capons can therefore remain conscious before dying of asphyxiation.

Better animal protection laws are required

There is no peace for farmed animals, not even during the holidays. Indeed, it is precisely in this period that the production and consumption of meat increases. According to the latest data available, 1.5 million capons are slaughtered in Italy, of which 970,000 are slaughtered in December alone.

These animals are subjected to terrible treatment which we are revealing because knowing the reality allows you to take a stand, or at least to start thinking about what is going on.
Simone Montuschi – President of Essere Animali

We need a change, we need urgent policies for the greater protection of farmed animals that prohibit cruel practices such as mutilation.

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