In April 2018, a new investigation into three egg farms in Abbotsford, British Columbia, revealed the startling conditions in which hens in Canada are living in. Barely clinging to life with some even buried in manure pits below the enclosures, these hens are far from alone in their suffering with billions of other hens being forced to live in the same conditions.
The exposé was created from footage captured by activist Jeff Rigear and others and narrated by actor Kat Graham. In the video, faeces can be seen falling through the cage and collecting in piles of up to five feet high, just crawling with maggots and other insects.
A hen amid the pile of faeces. Source: Jeff Rigear
Within the excrement, bodies of more than 200 hens were found, who had sadly fallen while being moved in and out of their cages. Left for dead, they likely died from dehydration or starvation with many being buried alive in the manure. While dozens were rescued from the pits, for most it was too late.
Source: Jeff Rigear
According to PETA, veterinary expert Dr. Katherine van Ekert noted the following about the hens:
[They were] suffering from extreme illness: They were so incapacitated that they did not struggle to move away when handled—a natural flight response. Their eyes were also sunken and their eyelids closed—signs indicative of severe depression and advanced disease states in chickens.
Sadly, the hens in the cages above the pits were in equally dire conditions. The cramped cages meant that these intelligents animals were packed so closely together that they couldn't even spread their wings, let alone establish a social order. In the video, you can see many of the birds suffering from extreme feather loss, often induced by stress and self-mutilation.
Source: Jeff Rigear
As if this wasn't bad enough, many of the hens had already started to decompose within the cages with the remaining survivors being forced to live alongside their corpses. Veterinary expert Dr. Christine Capaldo commented on this:
In my professional opinion, forcing live hens to be confined with decaying bodies would cause extreme psychological trauma, distress, and suffering; exposes live birds to disease, bacterial contamination, and harsh odors; and constitutes abuse and neglect.
The fact that they were packed so closely together meant they had no choice but to urinate and defecate on their congeners below them. Chickens are naturally clean, meticulous animals, making their suffering all the more painful to see.
The ammonia fumes caused by the accumulation of faeces saturated the air, irritating the hens' lungs and causing their skin to burn. According to Dr. van Ekert, these burns cause a condition known as “scald,” which feels like “being scalded with hot water.”
In the video, one hen's cloaca was prolapsed which is not only extremely painful but sometimes fatal. This condition is caused by a poor diet or the strain of laying more eggs than is natural. Fortunately for this hen, she was rescued by eyewitnesses and given the necessary veterinary care. Among the other injuries seen were inflamed feet and overgrown claws, the result of standing on wire flooring without any relief.
Severely overgrown claws, the result of spending every day and night on wire flooring. Source: Jeff Rigear
The egg industry is currently thriving with around 20 million hens being exploited for their eggs in warehouses like these in Canada alone. Their male counterparts are killed shorting after birth as they are deemed useless in the industry.
After around two years of being exploited, these "layer" hens are "spent" and their egg production decreases. Many are then transported off to slaughterhouses, whereupon they have their throats slit and their bruised and battered flesh is used to make pet food or soup.
You can watch the video of the investigation below:
Warning: The video below, taken from the three egg farms, contains graphic footage of animals suffering.