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-laying hen farm, to see first-hand what conditions are really like for victims of the egg industry.
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 around them.
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 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 to trucks for slaughter.
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.