A team from EonA and AWF checked on the loading of spent-hens at a farm in south Netherlands. The birds were destined for a slaughterhouse in Poland. The hens had been housed in so-called “enriched” cages their whole life and were grabbed by their legs and suspended upside down by chicken-catchers. Once the chicken-catchers had three suspended birds in each hand they would walk them outside the barn and towards the truck. Here they would, in an often brutal way, stuff the birds through the side-doors of a container system. The moment the birds were stuffed into the containers, they would all cry out, likely due to having their fragile legs and wings hit roughly against the metal sides.
The sound the chickens made during loading:
Spent laying-hens have very little calcium left in their bones from having to spend a life producing eggs daily thus they can fracture their bones easily. It is shocking to realize that they were going on a journey of 18 hours just for slaughter. Because the slaughterhouse in Poland was further away than 12 hours the containers had to be equipped with a drink-water system for the birds. This is mandatory according to the EU 1/2005 legislation. Indeed the truck was equipped with a water system but what remains unknown is if the birds actually make use of it or if they are too stressed to do so. We will look further into this. We are sending a report of our observations to the pertinent Dutch, Polish and EU authorities and to the poultry industry itself to insist that they have their chicken-catchers all trained in humane handling of birds. The way poultry are caught and loaded remains a serious welfare problem in the poultry industry.