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.

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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

CHICKENS SLAUGHTERED

512 million in 2019

POULTRY CONSUMPTION

19.7 kg per capita in 2018

FARMING SYSTEM

99.8% of chickens are in intensive farming systems

FARM SIZE

an average of 31,723 chickens per farm

LIFESPAN

the life of a broiler chicken is 6 weeks

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

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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