Dear donors and friends,

Every week thousands of poultry are caught on the farm in an impatient and rough manner to be stuffed into transport crates, loaded onto trucks and transported to a slaughterhouse. Of all poultry, it is the egg-laying hen that is handled the most roughly. Spent laying-hens have almost no economic value and are exhausted from a life of extreme egg-production with little calcium reserves left in their bones. In this newsletter we want to share with you some of the successes we have had in reducing their suffering.

Media attention!

Our footage of laying hens being caught in a rough manner on Dutch farms and then transported from the Netherlands all the way to northern Poland was recently in the media. The very popular Dutch radio-program Vroege Vogels (Early Birds) and two daily newspapers, AD and Metro, reported on our investigations. The images show hens being caught by their legs, hung upside down 4 per hand, and stuffed into small openings of the transported crates in such large numbers that they are wounded and get trapped. During transport blood leaked from the crates and many hens were unable to reach the water nipples due to being too crowded to move. We conducted these inspections for the Dierenbescherming (Dutch animal-welfare society) and now the SP, one of the political parties here, has raised questions in parliament in response to these atrocities. The Dutch authorities have let us know that this topic now has their attention and stricter enforcement and control is coming.

EonA starts welfare-training course for chicken catchers!

The first welfare-training course ever to be given to chicken-catchers by Eyes on Animals is going to take place soon. Eyes on Animals will train the workers of one of the largest Dutch chicken-catching companies this May. Over 30 catchers will receive instructions on how to catch and load hens in an alternative and much more humane way. Presently all laying hens are caught the same way (they are grabbed by their legs in large numbers and put into the crates upside down). We will teach the “Swedish method”  whereby hens are caught two-at a time, upright and not by their legs, and placed upright in the crate. It is a break-through that this catching-company will introduce this alternative method. Our goal is that all eggs labelled as organic or “welfare-friendly” must come only from hens that are also caught in this more humane manner. Eyes on Animals is presently negotiating with the label companies to make this mandatory.

Access to poultry during transport!

Eyes on Animals has put pressure on industry now for a number of years to develop crates equipped with side-access doors, so poultry that are trapped, wounded or laying on their backs can be relieved of their suffering. Right now these poor birds are left for hours to suffer horrendously, because they are prisoners in the crate once they are stacked onto the trucks. Access to animals during transport is already mandatory according to EU legislation, but never has been put into practice. Eyes on Animals is changing this! Last year we successfully convinced a manufacturer of poultry crates to design a new crate with side access doors and this year the company Meyn also developed poultry containers with doors. Meyn is one of the largest producers of transport- and slaughterfacilities in the world. Their containers are used daily to transport hundreds of thousands of birds. Our approach does have an effect on immediate improvements.

Animal welfare improvements at German poultry-slaughterhouse

This winter, Eyes on Animals inspected a poultry-slaughterhouse in Germany. The laying-hens and turkeys were removed from their transport crates and had their legs placed in shackles and left hanging upside down. The shackle-line transported them over an electric waterbath where the birds´ heads were immersed in the water to render them finally unconscious. We saw many problems. The birds experienced painful pre-shocks because their wings touched the waterbath before they were properly stunned. Live shackling and remaining hanging upside down also created a lot of pain and extreme fear, especially for the turkeys that can easily weigh 12kg and more. We also saw turkeys that had not been properly stunned. Fortunately the managers of the plant were also concerned and open to our suggestions. Following our advice the slaughterhouse is now installing a device that supports the breast and the head in order to take some of the weight off of their legs of the birds. This device is also designed so that the heads of the birds be submersed fully in the waterbath, without the risk of them facing the cutting knife while still sentient. Electrical pre-shocks will no longer take place and the stress and pain by being shackled upside down will be reduced. In the long run, we are also recommending that they completely phase out the use of the electric water bath and replace it with a more humane method of stunning the birds (read below). As long as the demand for chicken and turkey meat is so high, we will continue doing this sort of work to at least reduce as much suffering as possible quickly.

More humane method of stunning poultry

Recently we inspected a Dutch poultry slaughterhouse that used a slaughter-design manufactured by Meyn company. This system uses low concentrations of CO2 gas while the birds are still in their transport containers. The birds therefore do not need to be grabbed out of their transport containers and shackled alive, so the suffering is greatly reduced. But still poultry, like pigs, do experience stress when they inhale CO2 because CO2 is aversive. Poultry however suffer less than pigs because the concentration does not need to be so high. We watched the birds in the CO2 stunning chamber and their reactions were fortunately much less severe than with pigs. The Meyn gas-stunning method is so far the most humane system we have observed. Our plan is now to convince more and more poultry-slaughterhouses to abandon the horrible electric water bath system and switch to this system as soon as possible. But we will continue to also push industry to switch to non-aversive gases in the future, such as nitrogen and argon.

Without your help we could not attain these important steps to curb animal-suffering. Please, do support us with a donation. Every gift, small or large, is very appreciated.

IBAN: NL73TRIO0212364219

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