Cruelty and illegalities on an egg farm

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An Essere Animali investigator worked undercover on an egg producing hen farm and, using a hidden camera, filmed:

  • Illegal slaughter of hundreds of hens without prior stunning;
  • Repeated violent behavior towards animals;
  • Images and testimonies of eggs produced by caged hens being marketed as free range eggs.

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Four people are under investigation for the crimes of covert slaughter, animal mistreatment, and commercial fraud and forgery, while sanctions have already been issued for over 50,000 euros for various violations relating to safety at work and other rules for the protection of workers.

For years, through investigations carried out in a random selection of farms and slaughterhouses, we have documented frequent violations which we have reported to the relevant authorities. But more needs to be done: what we are asking for is an urgent change in animal protection laws. We need more controls, guaranteed and severe sanctions for those who act in violation of these laws, and also a plan for a transition towards ending intensive farming.

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Documented illegalities

Graphic images Click to watch

Covert slaughter

On the farm it was typical to sell hens and let them be slaughtered on the spot by the buyers themselves, without stunning the animals first. The images show how, after having had their throats cut, animals remain conscious for several minutes before dying. By law they should be killed only after stunning, in order to cause immediate loss of sensitivity for the animal, in authorized facilities and by qualified personnel. These measures aim to prevent avoidable pain for the animals, and to avoid hygienic and sanitary risks on site.

Graphic images Click to watch

Cruel killing of sick hens

On the farm, sick hens were killed incorrectly, prolonging their suffering for several minutes. According to the law, sick animals can be killed on farms if there is no other way to alleviate their suffering. The procedure is called emergency killing. It must cause immediate death and be immediately repeated if the first operation is ineffective. The images show that the farm operator is completely unprepared to carry out such a delicate operation.

Loading operations using violent methods

At the time of loading the animals for transport to the slaughterhouse, the hens were thrown to the ground with the help of sticks so they could be gathered, grabbed by the legs, and finally thrown into the cages, which they were crammed into to the extent of the workers pushing them in with their feet. These violent behaviors violate the law and disregard all guidelines concerning best practices for loading animals for transportation. The hens are supposed to be taken by both legs and supported under the chest to avoid injury.

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The farm has already been sentenced for illegal work

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The investigation has already led to initial measures against the company, which has been charged with various violations of laws concerning workplace safety and other rules for the protection of workers. Sanctions have been applied for a total of 51,000 euros. Last November, with the undercover investigator still inside the farm, Essere Animali alerted the Unit of the Labour Inspectorate of Venice that most workers did not have an employment contract, as well as the failure to comply with safety protocols at work. These violations were subsequently confirmed by the carabinieri during a raid on the farm, which took place with the assistance of a helicopter.

The farm is also being investigated by the Public Prosecutor's Office for commercial fraud and falsification of invoices

Alleged commercial fraud

The farm under investigation consists of three sheds: two for cage breeding, and one for free-range breeding. About 20,000 hens are raised in each shed and the eggs are transported from the sheds to the collection center by conveyor belts, where they are selected and packaged.

As the images show, the eggs leaving the different sheds flow into a single boxing line, making it impossible to distinguish between the two farming methods. The footage also shows a worker claiming that most of the eggs would be classified as free-range, despite the fact that the majority of the eggs came from the sheds where the hens are raised in cages.

This operation violates the law, as eggs from free-range hens are sold at a higher price than those from caged hens. According to the same operator, the absence of adequate controls by the authorities facilitates the continuation of this practice.

Suspected forgery

The footage also documents a regular buyer of eggs demanding the withdrawal of an invoice and the substitution of a previously purchased batch, which laboratory tests carried out as part of their own self-monitoring procedures showed to contain traces of a drug exceeding the legal limit.

These checks are the result of a “memorandum of understanding” signed between the trade associations and the Ministry of Health, with the purpose of examining eggs for residues of substances that are harmful to consumers.

 

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Salta questo step

FOR A REFORM OF ANIMAL PROTECTION LAWS

Directed to

Presidente del Consiglio

Ministro dell’Agricoltura e della Sovranità alimentare

Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Sicurezza Energetica

Ministero della Salute

In recent years Essere Animali has published several investigations carried out inside Italian factory farms and slaughterhouses, some realized in collaboration with important and influential Italian and international media, in order to document and denounce the conditions of animals bred for food to the Italian judicial authorities and institutions. During these investigations, violations of animal protection laws and criminal code regulations were filmed.

Essere Animali investigations have revealed:

  • violence inflicted by farm staff, such as blows with iron pipes on delicate and innervated points, improper use of electric tasers, lifting cows to the ground with a forklift truck, kicking and throwing small animals;
  • mutilations carried out without the use of anaesthesia and analgesia, without the presence of a veterinary, on animals over the age allowed by law, and the systematic cutting off of piglets’ tails, a practice that is illegal but widespread on almost all Italian farms;
  • agonising animals left to die of starvation or killed in a brutal manner by farm workers, without the application of the correct provisions on the emergency slaughter of sick animals;
  • animals transported for up to 30 hours in unsuitable means of transport, in distress and subjected to violence during loading and unloading;
  • animals subjected to group slaughter instead of being killed individually so that they do not see the death of their fellow animals, stunned in an inappropriate manner and with death occurring in agony.

Several complaints have been filed with the competent authorities for these mistreatments, but the frequency of such episodes, filmed in almost all of the farms under investigation chosen on a random basis throughout the country, even among suppliers of DOP products, prompts me to express my deep concern.
In addition to these law violations, Essere Animali’s investigations have also shown types and practices of livestock farming that, although now legal, cause unquestionable physical and psychological suffering to animals, thus intrinsically violating respect for the welfare of animals on farms, including:

  • use of cages in which animals spend most or all of their lives;
  • high densities when animals are reared ‘on the ground’ or in pens;
  • surgical castration of piglets and deboning of hens;
  • separation at birth of mothers from pups for milk production;
  • forced genetic selection, which produces animals with characteristics intrinsically contrary to animal welfare, such as fast-growing breeds.

I therefore call for a process of legislative reform that will:

  • progressively prohibits the use of cages;
  • prohibits all mutilation;
  • puts an end to public subsidies to the livestock sector;
  • brings about the tightening of sanctions for the mistreatment of animals and other violations of protection regulations, providing for the revocation of licence and banning from activity in the most serious cases;
  • establishes a control system on farms, during transport and at slaughterhouses that is absolutely more effective than the one adopted to date, with the use of CCTV cameras with AI systems and unannounced independent checks by public veterinary staff;
  • reformulates stocking densities, giving animals more space to move around, including outdoors, and adequate environmental enrichment;
  • ensures public funding for more sustainable food production and activities such as plant-based production and works to reduce the suffering of animals that will still be confined to slaughterhouses and farms in the coming years.
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