Through an undercover investigation, Djurrättsalliansen can now reveal what the first day of a chicken’s life in the Swedish chicken industry looks like. They are tossed around in a machine, thrown onto conveyor belts, eat each other and are left to suffer for hours.
Today Djurrättsalliansen (the Animal Rights Alliance) can reveal a previously-hidden part of the Swedish chicken industry: one of Kronfågel’s two hatcheries, where hundreds of thousands of chickens are hatched every day. Kronfågel is the largest chicken company in Sweden. In order to be able to document what a chicken’s first day of life looks like, Djurrättsalliansen worked undercover and filmed with hidden cameras.
The films, which are published today by one of Sweden’s largest news channels TV4, show among other things how chickens are thrown around on conveyor belts in a giant machine, squeezed to death and handled like objects. Injured and sick chickens are left in coops where they peck at the remains of other dead birds.
– The films show what the chickens are forced to endure in their first moments of life. We hope that many feel just as we do, that it is wrong to subject other feeling, thinking creatures to this treatment. I think many people feel a huge sense of powerlessness in the face of the injustices we see in our world today, but when it comes to how animals are treated, there is one simple thing we can each do to avoid being complicit in animal cruelty, and that is to stop eating animals, says Malin Gustafsson, spokesperson for Djurrättsalliansen.
The company where the footage was taken is called Swehatch AB. At the company’s facilities, chickens are hatched and raised under the Kronfågel brand, finally ending up on consumers’ plates. Swehatch is a subsidiary of Kronfågel AB and together they form part of the Scandi Standard group. The 55 million chickens that Kronfågel slaughters each year are hatched at one of Swehatch’s two hatcheries, one of which, in Skåne in south of Sweden, Djurrättsalliansen filmed.
Chickens forced into cannibalism
At the hatchery, it is carefully calculated when the chickens will hatch. In so-called hatching rooms, there are stacks of white plastic trays filled with eggs. Each tray contains 150 eggs and each stack contains over 2 000 eggs. When the chicks hatch, the plastic trays are filled with small, yellow, downy chicks. After hatching, they are moved into another room where they are poured onto a conveyor belt and passed through a sorting machine. The machine removes empty eggshells and staff sit at a conveyor belt and sorting abnormal, sick, injured and dead birds. They are tossed onto a pile of birds to be later gassed to death. The person from the Djurrättsalliansen who worked undercover witnessed how these chickens were routinely left for several hours, something that is illegal in Sweden, where severely ill and injured animals are supposed to receive care or be euthanized ”immediately”.
– Live chickens were forced to stand on top of dead ones and chickens ate other’s entrails. It was routine for these animals to be left for hours instead of being euthanized immediately. They must have suffered enormously and it was terrible to see, says the undercover worker, whose identity Djurrättsalliansen has chosen to protect.
At the end of the sorting machine, the chickens are dumped onto new plastic trays which are placed on top of each other in stacks. After that, they are placed in a cargo hold waiting for animal transports that take the chickens to the breeding farms. During their first day at the hatchery, the animals receive neither food nor water.
“An industrial inferno”
Everything at the hatchery happens at a very high speed. ”Spillage” in the form of dead chickens is part of everyday life.
– Handling was very careless. As newly-hatched chicks were sorted and passed through the machine, some fell to the floor. Chickens were crushed to death by trays on the floor and we walked around among them until the floor was cleaned, says the undercover witness.
In a natural state, chicks would spend their first weeks of life under their mother’s wings. Instinctively, they will follow the hen for warmth and protection and to learn what is edible and what is dangerous. But in this industry, all chickens are orphans.
– The world they come into is an industrial inferno and they are handled like nothing more than products. Then they are sent to factories where tens of thousands of chickens are dumped on the same floor. There they grow with unnatural speed for a few weeks before they are brutally slaughtered and finally end up on people’s plates. If we humans only have empathy and the will to see it for what it is, we can put an end to this systematic animal cruelty and we will do that by shutting down this industry once and for all, says Malin Gustafsson.
The reason why Djurrättsalliansen investigated the hatcheries is that basically all chickens that are hatched in Sweden to become food – over 100 million annually – suffer this fate, and there is a lack of transparency in how the whole process is conducted.
– On the websites of these companies nothing is mentioned beyond the fact that the chickens are hatched. There are no pictures or videos that show what actually happens. Now that these films exist, each of us can make an informed decision whether we want to be a part of this or not, says Malin Gustafsson.
The chickens seen in the footage belong to the hybrid Ross 308 and the so-called “slow-growing” Ranger Gold hybrid. Both are bred by Aviagen, the largest breeding company in the chicken industry. Just a few weeks ago Djurrättsalliansen released footage taken during an undercover investigation at Aviagen.The material, which was also broadcast on Sweden’s leading TV programme for investigative journalism “Uppdrag granskning”, shows the miserable conditions in which breeding hens and roosters live, kept on a starvation diet and killed without anesthesia. The footage has provoked strong reactions in Sweden and also other countries.
Watch Uppdrag gransknings episode “The Price of Chicken” here.
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