THE CRUEL TREATMENT OF CHICKENS

One of Essere Animali’s investigators worked undercover on several farms supplying the AIA brand.

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These images document the entire chicken breeding cycle and were filmed by an undercover activist of Essere Animali, hired for a month by a large company in Piedmont that owns several farms and supplies AIA, the main Italian poultry producer.

Chickens have a short life that is full of suffering. Selected to ensure rapid fattening and fed on high-protein feed, their breast weight is such that when sent to the slaughterhouse at only six weeks of age they have difficulty walking, as well as heart and respiratory problems. They are raised in sheds that can hold up to 30,000 chickens, 20 per square metre, with no possibility of outdoor access.

Watch the investigation

This is cruel to the animals and constitutes a risk to public health. In the opinion of the scientific community, these farms facilitate the spread of viruses that are dangerous to humans. In addition, as documented in our investigation, the widespread use of antibiotics – administered to all chickens for preventive purposes, with the aim of keeping as many animals alive as possible – is one of the leading causes of antibiotic resistance.

Workers also commit violent and abusive acts towards the chickens. Intensive livestock farms resemble dark zones in which even minimal animal protection laws are not respected. Newborn chicks are unloaded with violence to the point of injuring or killing them, sick animals are thrown among corpses while still alive or slaughtered after hours of agony and chickens are mowed down by the rotavator that turns the litter.

Although we have filed a complaint against those responsible, the problem does not end here. Over 500 million chickens are slaughtered in Italy every year. It is the most commonly consumed meat, often chosen as a substitute for red meat, but comes from intensive systems that can pose a risk to our society and cause serious suffering to animals.

SPREADING VIRUSES AND ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE

WHAT WE DOCUMENTED

VIOLENCE AGAINST CHICKS

On their first day of life, chicks from the hatchery arrive at the farm and are violently thrown to the ground from a height of more than one metre. The pace of work is frantic; 90,000 chicks can even be unloaded in a single day. Due to the impact with the ground, some die or are injured and are forced to live with pain and deformities. The owner of the farm also participates in these operations.

ABUSE

Sick animals are not treated, they die on the farm, are discarded with corpses while still alive or slaughtered after hours of suffering. A worker will come to mow down a sick chicken that is unable to move. When the chickens are transported to the slaughterhouse, they are also grouped together by being kicked towards the conveyor belts.

CHRONIC AILMENTS

Deformed by the weight of their breast, some chickens are no longer able to stand and collapse to the ground. Every day, hundreds of chickens fail to survive the consequences of genetic selection and the intensive farming conditions. Dermatitis and feather loss are caused by continuous contact with litter that is drenched with ammonia from the droppings of

Our investigations into the poultry industry

Violent loading of chickens

June 2019

One of our undercover investigators documented one of the grey areas of chicken production, the loading of animals for transport to the slaughterhouse. Thrown, kicked and crammed into cages, 48,000 chickens already suffering from the farming conditions are brutally transported to the slaughterhouse.

A shocking investigation into a chicken hatchery

January 2018

Working undercover in a hatchery where the chicks raised for one of the largest Italian companies are born, our investigator filmed the first day of their life. Separated from their mother even before birth, they are handled as if they were objects, thrown and ground up alive if sick or injured.

Chicken meat: low cost, high suffering

October 2017

Why on earth is chicken meat so cheap? Because the true price is paid by the chickens, raised in intensive systems that cause serious suffering. This investigation documents the conditions on various Italian farms supplying the main poultry brands, the overcrowding of sheds and violent behaviour by workers.

FIGURES FOR ITALY

HELP US TO SHOW THE WORLD WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON!

Thanks to our team of investigators, millions of people are discovering the reality of abuse and cruelty in farms and slaughterhouses. Our work saves animals and needs your support.

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read the petition

FOR A REFORM OF ANIMAL PROTECTION LAWS 

Directed to

Presidente del Consiglio, Mario Draghi

Ministro delle Politiche Agricole Alimentari e Forestali, Stefano Patuanelli

Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare, Roberto Cingolani

Ministero della Salute, Roberto Speranza

Presidente della Camera dei Deputati, Roberto Fico

Presidente del Senato, Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati

In recent years, Essere Animali has disseminated numerous investigations carried out inside intensive farms and slaughterhouses in Italy — some of which involved collaboration with reputable international media — in order to document the conditions of animals raised for food.

During these investigations, carried out by means of thorough monitoring using hidden cameras and workers infiltrated inside farms, violations of animal protection legislation and the regulations of the Criminal Code were carefully filmed.

Essere Animali investigations have revealed:

  • Violence inflicted by factory farm staff while handling animals or when animals resist treatment, such as blows with iron pipes, improper use of electric tasers, lifting “downed cows” using a forklift, and kicking and throwing small animals.
  • Mutilations carried out without anesthesia and analgesia, in the absence of a veterinarian and even beyond the age permitted by law.
  • Systematic tail docking of piglets, an illegal but widespread practice in almost all Italian farms.
  • Animals left to die of starvation or brutally killed by farm workers, without applying the correct guidelines concerning emergency killing of sick animals.
  • Group killings inside slaughterhouses, with animals witnessing the deaths of other individuals, and use of ineffective stunning practices.

Several complaints have been filed to the relevant authorities for these abuses, but the frequency of such episodes is worrying as they were filmed in almost all the farms we visited. These farms were chosen on a sample basis throughout the country, including suppliers of PDO products.

Alongside these legal violations, Essere Animali investigations have also shown breeding types and practices which, although now legal, are the cause of undisputed physical and psychological suffering for animals, including:

  • Use of cages in which animals spend much or all of their lives.
  • High density when animals are raised “on the ground” or in enclosures.
  • Surgical castration of piglets and debeaking of hens.
  • Baby chicks, which are considered useless for breeding purposes, are ground up alive.
  • Separation of calves from their mothers at birth for milk production purposes.

I am therefore calling for a process of legislative reform to be undertaken which:

  • Ban use of cages, even partial use.
  • Ban of any mutilation or killing of male chicks if they are perfectly healthy but considered non-productive by the livestock industry.
  • Stop public subsidies to the livestock sector.
  • Increase penalties for the mistreatment of animals and for other violations, including withdrawal of authorizations and disqualification from activity in the most serious cases.
  • Set up a monitoring system that is more effective than the one currently in use, for farms, during transportation, and in the slaughtering phases.
  • Reconsideration of stocking densities, permitting animals more space to move, even outdoors, and with the inclusion of environmental enrichments.
  • Provides for farming systems that allow animals to meet their ethological needs according to age and species, in consultation with animal rights organizations.
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