15 February 2022
Equalia has exposed appalling conditions for animals at a chicken farm linked to Europe’s fourth-largest poultry producer, which sells its product in shops across Europe.
The video (see below), published by the Spanish NGO Equalia, was taken between July and August 2021 at a broiler poultry farm in Italy, owned by AIA, the fourth largest producer in Europe and a trademark of the Veronesi Group.
Decaying birds can be seen being pecked by live birds; others in agony; birds with various deformities and fractures, unable to stand up. For some, it is impossible to reach the drinking trough, which further magnifies their suffering. The images also reveal alleged malpractice on the part of the staff, inflicting kicks and blows. Their necks are also seen to be broken or some are trampled to death.
These images are a stark contrast to AIA’s self-proclaimed slogan: “Where there is AIA, there is joy”.
In view of these facts, the NGO Animal Law Italy has lodged a complaint with the Italian authorities for practices that could constitute crimes of animal abuse and public health.
The risks of this production system extend to sustainability, food safety and human health. The high density of chickens on factory farms poses a risk to public health. Large concentrations of animals of the same species in a confined space have been shown to increase the risks of zoonotic diseases.
The outbreaks of avian influenza detected in recent years on farms in several countries (including countries in the EU), reinforce the need for methods to reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases. One such measure is the farming of slow-growing breeds, which leads to higher disease resistance.
The serious poultry health problems depicted in the video are due to the genetic hybridisation that is carried out to achieve maximum growth in the shortest possible time. Fast-growing chicken breeds are prone to unavoidable diseases that the industry euphemistically refers to as “production diseases”. These health problems lead to a high use of antibiotics prophylactically, rather than their recommended therapeutic use.
More than 300 food companies have committed to change this reality. The European Chicken Commitment (ECC) is an agreement which sets out a series of realistic animal welfare measures, including the replacement of fast-growing breeds (such as those seen in the report) and a reduction in the density of poultry per square metre.