The Animal Justice Project (AJP) has launched a new exposé about the UK egg industry. In Spring 2023, the group went undercover to capture the never-before-filmed world of UK chicken-catching “gangs”. AJP investigators embedded themselves with “chicken processing specialists”, AD Harvey, whilst they visited farms to carry out “depopulation”. AD Harvey is an RSPCA-assured company which promises higher welfare standards which “go further than standard legal requirements”.
When the hens are around 18 months old, they decrease their egg production so they are considered ‘spent’ and are then killed. The “End of lay” egg-laying hens are considered a mere by-product of the industry and used in low-grade soups, pastes and dog and cat food. The “gangs” from AD Harvey are deployed to farms to catch, transport, and slaughter these hens.
According to the investigators, in the cage-free system, the first thing the gangs do is force the hens down off the tiers by any means necessary (including pushing, kicking, throwing, hitting, and being pushed along by crates and scared with plastic bags). The hens of these systems or cage systems are then grabbed roughly by one leg and hung upside down. Despite government guidelines stating that a maximum of three hens per hand may be carried by two legs, AJP says that workers were seen carrying excessive numbers of hens from the sheds to the modules for transportation. In some clips, AJP estimates that workers were carrying at least five hens in each hand, and by one leg.
Then, hens are carried to stacks of crates known as modules where they were forcefully thrown into the drawers on top of each other. The drawers were slammed shut with little concern for trapped limbs, wings and heads, which could further add to their injuries. Finally, those who survived this onslaught will meet their end at AD Harvey’s slaughterhouse. Investigators were able to record severely injured hens, stunned and left for dead on the shed floors, in the aftermath of “depopulation”.