UK free-range egg farm Investigation

Veganuary Co-Founder Jane Land’s personal account of a 2017 visit to a UK free-range egg farm.

The thick stench of ammonia filled the air. I could feel it in my chest. It was revolting… sickening.

There was filth everywhere – years and years of grime built up, and cobwebs so thick they painted the walls of the barn white.

I could feel my heart pounding…

Under the cover of night, I had entered an egg farm, to see first-hand what conditions are really like for victims of the egg industry.

Awful conditions for chickens on an egg farm
Image Credit: Veganuary

As I looked around I was shocked by how many hens there were. The sheer scale of the operation was staggering.

I knew industrial chicken farms housed thousands of birds, but here there were tens of thousands crammed together.

All of them had feather loss, some worse than others – their wings and tails bare and red raw. A number lay dead on the floor, with gaping, bloody wounds – cannibalised by the hens trapped with them in these barren, overcrowded sheds.

You could clearly see that all of the hens had had the tip of their beak removed, a mutilation performed when they were just a few hours old. This practice, known as beak trimming, happens to all hens used by the UK egg industry whether caged or free-range.

The unnatural living conditions and huge flock sizes inevitably lead to squabbles, so the tips of their sensitive beaks are removed to limit the damage from pecking.

This is life and death on a typical egg-laying chicken farm. And these are not ‘battery’ hens. These are what the industry, supermarkets and Government tell us are ‘free-range’. But although these birds are not caged, life for them is still a misery.

Doors at either end of the barn let some of the luckier birds outside during the day, but with so many thousands crammed together, most of them will never reach the opening. Those who do must be high-up enough in the hen hierarchy to make it past the dominant birds.

The rest will not see the light of day, until their production value drops and they are loaded onto trucks for slaughter.

Chicken suffering on UK egg farm
Image Credit: Veganuary

An injured hen lay at the bottom of a ramp leading up to the food and water, unable to reach them. Patches of her body were completely bald, her skin raw and inflamed.

She seemed to have hurt her leg, and when I moved closer to her, she didn’t run away like the others. Something was clearly very wrong.

As I looked into her eyes I could see how frightened she was. I could imagine her lifetime of pain and suffering. It was heart-breaking.

I brought her over some food and sat quietly with her. Gradually, she built up the trust to lean over to me and gently peck at the food cupped in my hand. It was probably the only compassion she would ever experience.

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