There's a sort of double cruelty here, because the whole point of the young birds is to get them as large and fleshy as quickly as possible
There's a sort of double cruelty here, because the whole point of the young birds is to get them as large and fleshy as quickly as possible. Slaughter ages come down and down and down until it's now commonly about forty one days. They have actually affected the brain by the process of genetic selection, so they are very greedy birds. It's a horrible word to use for something which has been inflicted on them - but they are greedy.
If you allowed the breeders (the small group put to one side to reproduce) to eat in the same way, they would die of heart attacks and obesity. They would never reproduce, so the breeding stock are kept on severely restricted rations, say, fifty per cent of the "food" chickens. They're fed first thing in the morning, they eat it in about fifteen minutes and that's it until the next day and they spend the rest of the day wandering round pecking at meaningless objects and marks on the wall and so on, desperately looking for food. Which is cruel as they have the same artificially inflated greed as the other birds.
The others are purely eating machines. The lights are on for twenty three and a half hours in most units to keep them eating and eating, which is how their great weight is achieved at such an early age. The eaters are fed to bursting point whereas the parentstock are shut in their sheds starving hungry. So it's an ugly scene whichever way you look at it.
Firstly, they would be about half the weight they are now at that age. They would be nimble and running about. Just what everybody's idea of a normal, healthy chicken is. They are nothing like that in these conditions. They are a man-made bird in a sense, as they have been genetically tampered with to such an extent that they are really nothing like a natural bird anymore.
They are a man-made bird in a sense, as they have been genetically tampered with to such an extent that they are really nothing like a natural bird anymore
At first sight it can look fairly acceptable if you don't mind having no daylight, because there's plenty of space while they're tiny, but as they grow the space doesn't and by the end of the cycle they will literally be a thick carpet of birds on the ground. Which makes it impossible to do any meaningful welfare inspections. Many birds just die and disappear and decompose in the litter to be turned out at the end of the cycle. That is routine in the broiler industry.
Many birds are now crippled by the age of six to seven weeks, which is when they're usually slaughtered
Well it's not only the living conditions that do, it's the genetic selection, which has gone on since the Fifties, but is getting increasingly severe. Many birds are now crippled by the age of six to seven weeks, which is when they're usually slaughtered. You have the whole problem of leg weaknesses, and not only that, you have something called ascites, which is to do with the red blood corpuscles being too big to get through the tiny capillaries. It's like a dropsy in a person, breathlessness and distended innards and fluid on the abdomen. They are often grotesquely sick birds, especially at this very young age when birds should be in their prime and lively and healthy.
Antibiotics are used very widely in the industry, which is a great concern to many people because of the antibiotic resistance which is emerging in bacteria which is affecting humans, not just animals. And I think it is totally unforgivable to recklessly promote a system which is in fact propped up by antibiotics. Without them it would never have survived , because the birds would have died in incalculable numbers.
Again, this suffering is inflicted knowingly, just because they are no longer regarded as living animals or sentient beings, they are regarded as machines and commodities.
Well, the cruelty of that system is the incredibly cramped conditions in which the birds exist, which is unbelievably cruel. The birds have simply no space to move about. They never take a meaningful step, they just jostle each other within the cage. They're on a wire floor day and night, and the result is that huge numbers, around thirty per cent, have broken bones by the time they get to slaughter. This is because their bones have become completely brittle over the year that they're incarcerated - they're like old people with osteoporosis, which is again appalling because they are just about coming up to the chicken's "prime of life" when they're slaughtered.
Again, this suffering is inflicted knowingly, just because they are no longer regarded as living animals or sentient beings, they are regarded as machines and commodities.
Yes. It's controlled to some extent by low lighting which again is a huge deprivation to a bird known to have good eyesight. I think it's a great insult to the birds, to keep them in dim lighting, as they are. Broiler chickens, for meat, are also kept in very dim conditions, otherwise they would peck each other severely, causing high mortality.
|Certainly. Chickens have, over the last four or five decades, been divided into two types. Chickens bred previously were simply chickens, now there are egg laying birds or meat producing birds, and the egg laying birds are very slim and nimble compared with the others. The males would also be slim and nimble so therefore they're not wanted. They don't lay eggs, obviously, and they're not going to be raised for meat production (due to their thinness), so at day one they are sorted out into the sexes and all the males are gassed in bins with carbon dioxide. Or they are macerated in machines like huge food mixers. We've heard of them surviving this horrendous treatment - they are sometimes fed to zoo|
So at day one they (male chickens) are sorted out into the sexes and all the males are gassed in bins with carbon dioxide. Or they are macerated in machines like huge food mixers
If they hatch out approximately fifty fifty male to female, and we have roughly thirty three million laying hens in this country, the same number of male chicks will have been gassed at a day old.
Yes, as the life cycle for the battery hen is a year long.
It is known throughout the industry that many birds enter this scalding tank alive and possibly conscious
|Yes, well after the squalid life in the sheds they are caught, which is one of the worst parts of the whole procedure because they are caught in the most crude way - they are grabbed by a leg, several in each hand, slung into modules or crates and transported to the slaughterhouse. Here they are hung on a slaughterline in shackles upside down. They are then passed through an electrified water bath, which is supposed to stun them into unconsciousness, but quite often fails. Then their necks are cut, and they are supposed to be unconscious from then on. They sometimes regain consciousness during this, or were found never to have been made unconscious. After this they pass along the line and eventually into a scalding tank which is to loosen the feathers. It is known throughout the industry that many birds enter this scalding tank alive and possibly conscious.|
The "stun-kill" process is supposed to render them insensible until both of the carotid arteries are cut to ensure quick brain death, yet this was not happening at McDonalds' suppliers. They were just severing the spinal cord - which can mask insensibility, such that a bird can be in fact just paralysed but still conscious. So there were endless queries as to whether these birds really were unconscious. There is even a question about whether it is possible to know if they've lost sensibility, as they can even go into the scalding tank alive and conscious, which is a major concern.
Sun Valley were slaughtering birds in a way which was more or less guaranteed to leave a big question mark as to whether they were being properly rendered insensible, which is required by law.
The same process is used for battery hens after their egg-laying period is over
Well Sun Valley are one of the biggest producers of chicken meat in Britain and the sole provider to McDonalds of their chicken meat. It is just like any other big commercial broiler company. They tend to overstock, even accounting for the fact that there is no law about the stocking density. There are merely codes of recommendations and I believe they overstock according to those. It is the same story, huge windowless sheds, perhaps thirty to forty thousand birds per shed, no welfare and no individual attention.
So if a bird is sick or dies, the chances are it can remain in the litter to be pecked at by the living birds and decompose in the litter - only to be turned out at the end as fertiliser perhaps or bedding for cattle. For the chickens it is just a life of meaningless stress. The only point in their lives is to find the food and water, because there is no environmental interest whatsoever, apart from pecking at litter, and lighting is very dim. As I mentioned earlier, there is huge overcrowding - as the birds grow the space doesn't so they become a carpet of birds on the floor. The stock person is supposed to walk through to inspect them, which is a farce, of course, as nobody can possibly inspect forty thousand birds daily.
So if a bird is sick or dies, the chances are it can remain in the litter to be pecked at by the living birds and decompose in the litter - only to be turned out at the end as fertiliser perhaps or bedding for cattle
So there are a significant number of birds that just suffer and die, making the inspector's job basically picking up the dead.
During the case, the McLibel case, there was some filming made in a Sun Valley unit and this showed grotesquely crippled birds, I mean exceptionally bad, even by the industry standard. It was very disturbing to think that they hadn't even been concerned enough during the case to ensure that all their farmers and contractors were working properly, within the system. The system cannot be operated truly humanely, but there are at least levels of neglect which can be taken care of, which Sun Valley just weren't doing.
As regards battery hens I've been into many units, generally with the owner, often to buy birds, so we have not only seen the units, seen the birds in the cages, but actually brought them out and seen how they respond to space and normal living conditions, which has been very interesting. The fact that has emerged from this is that they lose absolutely no natural instincts, they are simply what they have been through millions of years, they are fundamentally unchanged.
Broiler units I've been into far less. I've basically built up a picture through reading and seeing evidence, living near units, knowing what goes on and reading a lot. I did ask to go to Sun Valley to see the slaughter, but I was refused entry or a visit of the slaughterhouse.
I think I was considered a huge trouble-maker and therefore not welcome, but I was willing to go and see it.
As for the Chicken McNugget, it will have come from birds kept in semi-darkness, squalor, living on their own droppings for six or seven weeks, totally bereft of any environmental satisfaction or interest. Eating, eating, eating
|An Egg McMuffin is likely to have come from a battery hen. For the hen, this means a life of constant stress just jostling with four or five cage mates trying to find somewhere to lay her eggs on a wire frame floor. Konrad Lorenz, the famous zoologist, described the battery hen's existence as torture.|
They're not. That came up in the case. Take McDonald's slaughter line for instance, it came out during the case, that just about every recommendation in the codes and some of the law was being broken. You could almost say they were slaughtering in the way most likely to produce the most suffering. They were using the wrong shackles, a type discouraged in the codes, which they had been using until recently.
I think their slaughter line has improved, but at the time of the accusations, there was a tremendous amount wrong with their slaughter line. They boast in their `factbook' that they only deal with companies using the most humane welfare-orientated background. It simply isn't true.
Yes. McDonalds has certainly escalated the demand for cheap food, which people think is clean, such that they take their families on these outings to McDonald's. If they could just see behind the scenes they would be horrified. In the codes it says that nobody should start a new poultry unit or extend an existing one unless they can protect the welfare of, and it says `the individual bird'.
In a Sun Valley shed, there will be thirty, forty thousand birds, altogether, which is a complete travesty of any meaning of the word `individual bird'. And of course the more you promote the desire for this cheap chicken meat, the more suffering there will be.
|I think McDonalds are guilty because they work so hard to promote
this squeaky clean image to encourage families to go in, there are free
gifts for children and all sorts of promotional activities go on there. It is
hiding a filthy, squalid scene, and they know it - this is the point - McDonald's know
As for the eggs, behind a McDonalds Chicken McNugget there is a very squalid scene of suffering. Birds crowded into dimly-lit sheds, eating because there's nothing else to do and they've been genetically selected to be very hungry. They are very often crippled, they have respiratory diseases associated with the living conditions, and are fed a diet of antibiotics to stop more of them dying.
It (McDonald's) is hiding a filthy, squalid scene, and they know it - this is the point - McDonald's know it
As it is many birds die in the sheds and they remain in the litter decomposing, pecked at by the living birds and eventually maybe put onto fields as agricultural fertiliser, after having three to four weeks after death to decompose in the shed and spread disease among the survivors.
McDonalds birds certainly suffer. I would say every bird suffers huge deprivation the ones that are crippled suffer agonies. We're talking in millions all the time really.
It's hard to imagine improving the turkey and broiler industry because it is absolutely massive. It represents junk food at a cheap price, and people have come to expect it as a fact of everyday life. There's no way you can supply six hundred million chickens a year cheaply.
They are junk food and they are not even considered as animals. In the ministry codes of recommendations they are talked of as a crop, it's thirty four kilograms to a square metre, we're talking in mass of meat "harvested". People have forgotten that they're animals, and there's no way you can improve things, without paying a lot more.
The key question is that they are cheap and are regarded as a commodity at the moment, so I think there would have to be massive changes. Even if you put all the current birds onto free range, they are a spoiled product, they are a genetically manipulated lifeform - not engineered as such but bred for this gross scale of obesity - they are really unnatural. I mean you would have to go back to a worthwhile animal that can walk properly and can live a normal life.
I don't think so, because profits would plummet. We're talking really about something fairly radical for this society, which is taking the animal into consideration as a living being. As this is just totally ignored at the moment as being subordinate to profits I don't think I can see it.
No. I think McDonald's represents something very objectionable in the modern attitude to food animal production, something which is totally unrealistic. We can't expect to cram in all this animal food with our large population and a large number of people eating out and children going to parties at McDonalds.
I think McDonald's represents something very objectionable in the modern attitude to food animal production, something which is totally unrealistic
There's no way that we can eat these numbers of animals without paying ten, twenty times as much if they were to have been reared organically and free range. This isn't what people want, they want cheap meat. So I don't think there's any way it could be done, we have to eat less of this kind of thing and have higher principles and think more about the animal, because if you're eating something which has originated in an animal, even if it's egg or milk, you have to think where it's come from and what's gone on behind the scenes. People are all too willing to just turn a blind eye on this background.
I think there are degrees. Personally I don't eat any animal products, but this is perhaps because I've gone into the subject deeply over quite a few years and decided I don't want anything to do with it.
I would much rather somebody ate organic meat than ate McDonald's products, you would think they'd gone a step forward, and I wouldn't condemn people, but to me it's obvious that the way to avoid cruelty to food animals is not to have anything to do with it, because then there is no question of it. I think there are steps forward and I would rather see free range and organic than the meat we have at the moment.
Richard Rampton made great play of the fact that I had no relevant qualifications, which is quite true, but I think he probably realised after a few minutes of seeing me in the witness box that I knew a great deal about it at grass roots level.
The way to find out is to be motivated and to go and see what's happening and I've been doing that for a good many years. So it was quite a pleasure really, to be able to help in this case, because I think the defendants are extremely brave, extremely tough and they're doing a great service to our society so I was very pleased to support them in that way.
Well yes, because I could help. As a campaigner it was satisfying because we do a lot of work behind the scenes, and it was interesting and rewarding to be able to use some of this knowledge to expose these vile practices. We have built up a lot of expertise and knowledge and it's been a great opportunity to draw attention to these horrendous cruelties
Well, it's obviously put the spotlight on this kind of modern mass produced food industry. Prior to this, a lot of people have not really thought further than the issue of battery hens alone. So I think it has raised many important subjects, yes.
I think McDonalds is responsible for changing the face of Britain. We have them turning up everywhere, and I think it's a very regressive step. So I feel that, although my main concern is for the animals, it's good to bring all of the issues into the public's eye. I think that new McDonald's would have continued to proliferate had this case not happened and I think this case may have brought that to a standstill.
I think McDonalds is responsible for changing the face of Britain. We have them turning up everywhere, and I think it's a very regressive step
Helen and Dave as people? Well I think they're great! They're very different from each other but I think they compliment each other and I think they've got great courage and great intelligence. I think that McDonalds clearly had no idea what they were letting themselves in for and are probably regretting the whole thing bitterly.
We'll never know but I think that it's been very fortunate that the Two have been brave enough to take this on, and as I say I think McDonalds will be very sorry about it indeed.