In a bid for cheap meat, chickens turkeys and ducks have been forced into the windowless sheds we now see disfiguring Britain. The photo below of a male breeding turkey illustrates the depths to which the modern poultry industry has sunk.







"The worst torture to which a battery hen is exposed is the inability to retire somewhere for the laying act. For the person who knows something aboutanimals if is truly heart-rending to watch how a chicken tries again and again to crawl beneath her fellow-cagemates to search there in vain for cover. "
Professor Konrad Lot
Nobel prize winner and animal behaviourist.

Since Professor Lorenz made this observation (in 1981) scientists have proved that under experimental conditions, hens will overcome an amazing range of obstacles to reach the seclusion of a nesting box. For the abused battery hen there is no hope - she must lay he in a crowded cage, on the bare wire floor.

The Welfare of Battery Hens Regulations 1987 allow 450 cm2 of cage floor space for each battery hen -- less than the area me area of this page.


Battery cage conditions do nothing to destroy 'ancestral memory':
'Chickens in battery cages which have wire floors...can often be seen to go through all the motions of having a dus-bath.. If such -dust-deprived birds are eventually given access to something in which they can have a real dust-bath ... they go in for a complete orgy of dust-bathing. They do it over and over again, apparently making up for lost time ...'
Through Our Eyes Only, Dr Marian Stamp Dawkins, Department of
Zoology, Oxford University (W. H. Freeman, Spektrum 1993)


Chicks are sexed at high speed, and the males killed. (Laying hens have been genetically selected for high egg production so the males of this strain are considered uneconornic to rear. This culling at the hatchery stage applies to all systems, including free range.) Many 'Easter chicks' die a slow and distressing death in the gas filled 'rubbish' bins into which they're tossed.
Day Two to Point of Lay
The young birds are reared in special cages, or on deep litter. Those 'lucky' ones initially allowed their freedom in deep litter systems suffer a cruel shock when, at around 18 weeks, they're imprisoned in battery cages - for life.
Debeaking/ Beaktrimming
Some chicks are debeaked, a mutilation involving partial amputation of the beak with a red hot blade. This is to minimise Cannibalism in later life and can result in life-long pain.
A Year in Cages
Most battery hens spend around one year in laying cages before going for slaughter. Some are force-moulted in readiness for a second year of incarceration. For their entire lives they stand or crouch on bare sloping wire, often suffering severe damage to feet and claws, always enduring discomfort and distress. Cages are stacked three, four or five tiers high (sometimes higher) and a typical cage for five hens measures 18" by 20" (45 by 50 cms).
The Cruelty of Cages
In their natural state hens are active from dawn to dusk, walking, running, pecking and scratching in the ground for food, dust-bathing and nestbuilding - all behavioural patterns denied to the battery hen. Severely frustrated, caged hens turn to pecking at each other.
The Laying Ordeal - What Price Those 'Farm Fresh' Eggs?
Today's hybrid hens lay five or six times a week. Battery hens become highly stressed and aggressive during the prelaying period because of lack of privacy and nesting materials. Konrad Lorenz, the renowned animal behaviourist, wrote:

'For the person who knows something about animals it is truly heart-rending to watch how a chicken tries again and again to crawl beneath her fellow-cage-mates, to search there in vain for cover.'

When an egg is produced, the vent becomes distended, red and moist, attracting the attention of bored and frustrated birds. Vent pecking can occur, and even lead to cannibalism. In cages there is no escape!

Diseases of Intensification - Cages Promote Suffering
Many diseases and injuries go unnoticed in the gloomy, overcrowded cages. Birds in the top and lowest cages suffer most from neglect, being hard to see. Impacted eggs, prolapses and disorders of kidneys and liver plague battery hens, and Marek's disease (a form of cancer) takes its toll. Often, birds reach the point of death before farmers notice anything amiss. Worse, dead hens (such as those in photo below) are left in cages for long periods, while 'farm fresh' eggs roll past or lodge against the corpses.

(the below image shows battery hens with a collection of 'farm fresh' eggs building up behind their two dead companions)

Many spent hens have malignant tumours. In the dimly-lit cage conditions they're ignored, and many sick birds are loaded onto lorries to travel to slaughter. Could cancerous birds reach the consumer?
Brittle and Broken Bones
Cage conditions result in hens with bones so brittle they snap when catchers wrench them from the cages. An ex-poultry worker gave the following description of his daily tasks and the catching process:
'One of my jobs was removing dead birds. There was never any shortage. Due to poor light the bottom two tiers of cages were in darkness, and it was impossible to see if the birds were still alive. When the carcasses were removed it was often a matter of a skeleton head and a few bones. I once took part in the clearance of a ten thousand bird shed. Other lads were brought in from local farms and the torture commenced. I recall being shouted at for my gentleness. Birds were dragged from the cages by their legs. Four birds were carried in each hand end down, down the shed to the door. The noise was deafening, the smell was putrid. Legs, wings and necks were snapped without concern. As I now look back, the whole system is incredibly cruel. After saying all this, this particular farm was good as far as battery farms go. The floors were swept daily and precautions taken against disease and pests ... I gave up work in the poultry industry after bad dreams at night.'

Research at Bristol University has indicated that a massive 24% of battery hens suffer broken bones during catching.

Transport to Slaughter
Millions of battery hens travel great distances to slaughter, since only a handful of processing plants specialise in the killing of 'spent' hens. Often nearly featherless, they may endure journeys in near-freezing conditions, While hot weather can cause death from heat stress.
Most poultry are killed by electric stunning plus neck cutting. UK law requires that the birds are rendered unconscious by the electric stun until death occurs through blood loss (exemptions exist for Jewish and Muslim methods). Research by scientists at Bristol University found that when an appropriate current was used, 98% of hens ended up with multiple broken bones. Bone splinters in spent hen meat present a problem for the food industry. A 'solution' is to reduce the electrical current, so fewer bones break. When this is done, battery hens may have their necks cut and even enter the scalding tank fully conscious. Spent battery hens are processed into soups, stock cubes, 'convenience foods' and babyfoods, or used in the restaurant trade.

(Often nearly featherless, 'spent' hens suffer greatly during transport to slaughter. These three were spared this fate. Here they are seen enjoying sunshine for the very first time. Notice how one is spreading her wing, to feel the sun's warm rays. Photo: Dave Clegg)



The mother hen is fiercely protective of her chicks, sheltering them under her wings for their first two months of life. Genetically selected for fast growth, brolier chickens are saughtered when only 6 or 7 weeks old (a healthy chicken's life span is as many years)

'A cruel mess'
-this is how Professor John Webster of Bristol University has described the broiler industry. FAWN invites you to take a close look at how today's healthy' chicken meat is produced.
A Short Life and a Brutal One
Mass-produced chickens (around 99% of the market) spend their short lives in huge windowless sheds. Motherless, the chicks must fend for themselves from day one. Those that fail to find their way to food and water points are called 'starve-outs'. Towards the end of the cycle, some broilers are so crippled they cannot walk, so these too die from starvation and dehydration.
Baby Giants
Selective breeding for 'greedy' birds, and the addition of growth-promoters to the feed, have ensured an end-product twice as heavy at seven weeks as chickens should be - and were, before the poultry and drug industries moved in. The result? PROFITS for producers and SUFFERING for the sick and deformed birds.
Squalid Conditions
An attempt to collect the 'deads' should be a daily task. A poultry worker has described it as follows:
'This has to be done every day because ofthe heat and the way the birds are packed so tight. When you pick up a dead bird it's quite common for them to be so putrid that they are just bags of bone and fluid.'
(Lincolnshire Free Press, 5 Oct.'87)
(Image - Six week old broiler chickens)

With birds reared together in such huge nurnbers(45,000 in one shed is typical of new units) proper welfare inspections are impossible. Many dead and dying birds go un noticed, to decompose in the litter on the shed floor. Heat stress is a major cause of death. Botulism has occurred in cattle fed or bedded on used chicken litter.

Diseases Old and New Take Their Toll
Diseases (including heart attacks and fatty liver and kidney syndromes) kill many young birds. Now, viral diseases like Gumboro (this destroys the immune system - it's been called 'chicken AIDS') and chicken anaemia agent (CAA) are taking their toll, often pushing mortality figures well into two figures. (Yes, Gumboro can kill 10- 20 thousand chickens in one shed alone!) Ascites provides another major headache for an industry which has produced a bird with masses of profitable flesh, but organs so immature they cannot function effectively. Ascites resuits in an internal accumulation of yellow or blood-stained fluid. It's a disease associated with
'the high oxygen demand of rapid growth in the modern broiler, combined with restricted space for blood flow through the capillaries of the lung'.
(Poultry Diseases, Ed. F. T. W. Jordan, Balliere Tindall, 1990)
Painful Afflictions
Millions of broiler chickens develop painful ulcerated feet and hock burns (these are like bed sores in humans). High ammonia levels can cause blindness. All this suffering occurs while broilers are mere baby birds.
A Cruel End
Catching, transport and slaughter all cause trauma and pain to broilers. Soft young bones break, and joints (often already painfully deformed) become dislocated when birds are caught. Carried several in each hand by teams of 'catchers' working at top speed, they're thrown or crammed into crates or modules (drawer-like containers) to be loaded onto lorries. Often, legs and wings are trapped, and heads crushed, before the journey to slaughter begins. 'Chicken pieces' (those handy items so popular at buffets, barbecues etc.) may have been salvaged from injured or sick birds, having previously borne a terrible weight of suffering in the gloom of a filthy broiler shed. As with spent hen slaughter, a 'humane' kill is never guaranteed, and it's been suggested by poultry researchers that many chickens are inadequately stunned, and feel the pain of neck cutting. Again, some enter the scalding tank alive, perhaps conscious.
(Image - Chickens with ulcerated feet sold for human consumption. Photo: Chickens' Lib)
Future Deprivations?
A disturbing picture is emerging of novel ways of papering over the cracks' of the disastrous broiler industry. Feed restriction for the Young birds is being recommended as a way of minimising diseases associated with unnaturally rapid growth and poor environmental conditions:
'With controlled feeding of broilers becoming a growing trend it is important to sell it as a welfare friendly management style to the general public. This means getting the right message across which is "controlling growth" not "restricting feed" ... there is obvious potential in controlling the growth of broilers, but it needs the right terminology.'
(John Farrant, Editor, Poultry World, November 1994)

In plain English, hungry broilers are getting their exercise foraging in faeces and litter for non-existent feed!

A leading poultry scientist has suggested caging broilers (this already happens in some parts of the world) as a 'solution' to some welfare problems.

The modern broiler is a genetic freak, doomed to all manner of physical and mental ills, all the result of:

The poor health status of the modern meat-type chicken is 'man-made' and amounts to cruelty, knowingly inflicted in the name of economics and profit.
Broiler Breeders - the parent Stock
Hidden well away, and generally forgotten, are the millions of breeders Supplying semen and eggs for the chicken meat industry. Kept in broiler Sheds in their hundreds or thousands, their lives are stressful, especially For the hens, when frequent matings result in severe feather wear. Ammonia levels in the sheds may be very high, causing blindness.

Many breeding females are debeaked, to minimise damage from aggression, and this may cause life-long pain. Males are not debeaked as they need to grasp the hen's comb when mating.

Feed Restriction
Feed is severely restricted. Broilers have been specifically bred for 'greediness' as this suits the broiler industry for those birds killed at 6-7 weeks. But if breeders were fed ad lib they'd suffer from disastrously low fertility and high mortality in later life. To 'solve' this problem they are kept on minimal rations that leave them so hungry they peck at empty troughs and the shed walls, eat faeces and litter, and drink large quantities of water in a futile attempt to assuage their appetites. Since excessive drinking produces wet droppings (then soggy litter) the water supply may be restricted too. This regime lasts for their first few months of life. In its 'Breeder Management Guide' (revised 1994) one of the world's major broiler breeding companies, the Cobb Breeding Company, advises two alternative feeding programmes for this period: "Skip-a-Day" and 'Five Days/Week Feeding'. The first involves no food at all every other day but double (though meagre) rations when it is given, and the second method increases the daily recommended amount somewhat but omits all food three days out of eight. By any norma I reckoning, such treatment is cruel and should be prohibited. Even when the degree of feed restriction is less extreme (after week 20) breeders are kept very hungry, to ensure maximum fertility/profitability. The pronounced head shaking sometimes seen among female breeders is probably caused by the stress of constant hunger and unnaturally frequent mating.
Worn-Out Breeders Into Canned Soups
At the end of their peak semen and egg producing days, broiler breeders are slaughtered and processed into pies, soups etc. Many are culled during the breeding cycle, since only the most productive birds are kept. (Image - Only a few weeks old - victims of the modern broiler system. Photo: Chris James)


Turkeys are highly individual birds. The females are as maternal as any mother hen. The males (stags) fluff up their fine feathers and 'gobble', to establish their role as protector of the harem. The wild turkey flies at speeds of up to 50 mph and roosts in tree tops. Stags weigh around 77 Ibs, females considerably less. Turkeys like to roam in woodland, eating insects and vegetation. Seeds and berries are a favourite food..

(Mother turkey protecting her young. Photo: Gary W. Griffen copyright Animals Animals/OSF)

Today's Turkey - Designed to Suffer
Turkey meat is available all year round and comes in many guises. It's often promoted as a healthy food. The modern geneticaliy-selected bird bears little resemblance to its wild counterpart, especially the male of the species, who can now scarcely lift his feet off the ground.
The Ugly Truth
Most turkeys live crammed together in dimly-lit windowless sheds. 15,000 in one shed is typical of the bigger units. Though not caged, turkeys nearing slaughter weight have little more floor space to themselves than a battery hen. Moving around the shed becomes a stressful challenge and the overcrowding induces aggression. Some, reared especially for the Christmas trade, are kept in 'pole barns', in natural daylight. These may have a little more room, but are still kept in grossly overcrowded conditions.
Turkeys become aggressive when stressed, and attack each others' eyes and toes. The Ministry of Agricultu re (MAFF) estimates that 20% of turkeys are debeaked. The mutilation is carried out with a red-hot blade, and can result in permanent pain. Most 'pale barn' turkeys are debeaked, since aggression is rife when birds can see each other clearly. In general, outbreaks of cannibalism are kept to an 'acceptable' level either by debeaking or by keeping hirds in semi-darkness.
Young turkeys are well-known for failing to find food and water points. Since all modern turkeys begin life with no maternal care, many die from starvation and dehydration at an early age.
Sudden death (caused by lung congestion, and a condition similar to dropsy) is an important cause of mortality, especially in fast-growing male birds. Other major killers include turkey rhinotracheitis (TRT) and colisepticaemia, necessitating the frequent use of antibiotics.
Environmental Damage
Broilers and turkeys suffer in a similar way.'Ammonia blindness' can occur when litter condition is poor, in the overcrowded, badly ventilated sheds, damaging the eye's surface. Birds suffering from ammonia blindness hide away in dark corners, rubbing their eyes with their wings, giving cries of pain.

Damp and impacted litter and the barren environment, plus genetically- induced leg weatness, lead to hock burns (similar to bedsores) and ulcerated feet. (Image - Inside a typical intensive turkey unit. Photo: Philip Lymbery)

The Parent Stock - Victims of Cruel Exploitation
Modern turkey breeding is artificial. Male turkeys have been bred to be unnaturally heavy and 'meaty'. Today's adult male turkey can weigh around 80 Ibs (36 kg) - over four times as much as its wild cousin. Most tip the scales at 50-60 Ibs, but are still far too heavy and broad-breasted to mate with the smaller female. Artificial insemination (AI) is now virtually 100% throughout the turkey industry.
The Trauma of AI
Every few days the males are caught and 'milked' by teams of AI operaters, who manually stimulate the area of the male sex organ. When the phallus protrudes, it's possible to squeeze out semen, which is then sucked up a tube to be stored. Bruising of the male genital region occurs if too many 'strokes' are administered or if undue pressure is exerted on the abdomen. Once the females have been 'opened up', semen is injected into their vaginas, either via a hypodermic syringe, or by means of a length of tubing through which the operater blows. The insemination is carried out at high speed - MAFF's reference book 242 'Turkey Breeding and Husbandry' estimates about half a minute per bird. The procedure is so traumatic that MAFF advises it should take place 'in the cool of the day' in warm weather, to minimise heat stress.
Broodiness - Maternal Instincts Persist
Upto 700io of female breeding turkeys become broody, wishing to incubate and hatch the eggs they've laid, and this despite the best efforts of the industry to discourage an unprofitable habit. It's been estimated that around 50% of labour costs are spent on the stockperson's job of attempting to prevent and disrupt broodiness. 'Remedies' for broodiness include frequent egg collection and ejecting birds from nests. Drugs to counteract broodiness have been investigated.
Welfare Insults
Many breeding turkeys are debeaked, to minimise aggression and cannibalism. Males are often de-snooded, and are thus deprived of a
(Image - Debeaked turkey with damaged eye. Photo: Oxford) Environmental Films
sensitive and expres- sive organ. As can be seen from this photo, debeaking a flock pro- vides no gua ra ntee that severe damage will not be inflicted by fellow birds.
Diseases in Breeders
Males suffer especially, because of relentless selective breeding for a heavy bird. Diseases of the hip joints are extremely common, and painful. A leading British poultry researcher has claimed that virtually all male breeders of the heaviest strains are reluctant to walk.
High Rate of Culls
As with broilers, only the most productive are kept for a full year's breeding, and culling is common. And like broilers, once their year spent as semen and egg machines is over, turkey breeders are processed into pies, sausages. etc.

The cruel end.
Catching, Transport and Slaughter
Turkeys are large, strong and easily frightened. Violent treatment of birds occurs when catchers move in to grab the terrified birds by the legs. They're then forced into crates or modules so roughly that a major cause of downgrading at the slaughterhouse is bruising. Inevitably, some die en route to the processing plant.
Turkeys are killed in the same way as chickens. They suffer greatly at sla ug hter. Very heavy, at male adult can weigh as much as an 8-9 year old child) and often diseased, enormous strain is put on legs and hips as birds hang upsidedown in shackles. To add to the misery, trailing wings often touch electrically live waterbath ramps, causing painful and terrifying pre-stun shocks. Research has shown that many slaughter-houses fail to cut birds' necks properly, so delaying merciful brain death. Every year, thousands of British turkeys enter the scalding tank alive, perhaps conscious.


Ducks are water-fowl. They choose to spend most of their time on the water, swimming and searching for food. Even newly hatched ducklings can follow their mothers onto the water. These ducks were bought from a leading commerciai hatchery and reared by FAWN. From day one they displayed an intense interest in water and now spend most of their waking hours swimming and investigating streams and puddles. Photo: Chris James
Ducks Are Big Business Too
Millions of ducklings are now 'factory farmed', to be killed at around eight weeks of age. A leading duck producer recommends a space allowance of five ducks per m2, while the Ministry of Agricultur(MAFF) suggests seven ducklings per m2 on solid floor and eight on slats/wire. in practice a mixture of both systems (straw or wood shavings, and wire) is common.

MAFF estimates that around 75% of the national duck flock is kept intensively, in broiler-type sheds, where lighting may be a I most constant, but dim.

The MAAF welfare code for ducks advises:
'The system employed should be appropriate to the health and behavioural needs of the ducks.'

Fine words, but empty ones. In its ADAS Reference Book 70 'Ducks and Geese', we are told:
'... wire floor rearing and fattening has much to commend it'
'water for swimming is not necessary'.

Many ducklings never know anything better than a shallow drinking trough or, worse, systems that don't allow immersion of the head. Eye problems (even blindness) and poor feather condition can result from this deprivation. It is cruel to deny ducks water to swim in since they are genetically 'programmed' to spend most of their time in water.

Major causes of duck mortality include bacterial infections such as E. Coli septicaemia and streptococcal septicaemia, and viral infections. Cardiovascular disease also takes its toll, a result of stress and fast growth. In the crowded conditions, ducks can be knocked over and 'stranded' on their backs, and may be left to struggle for long hours in a vain attempt to right themselves.
The Parent Stock
The breeders' deprivation is longer-lasting, and therefore more extreme. Intensively-reared breeders are kept (usually at a ratio of one male to five females) with shallow drinking troughs as the ironly source of water. Sheds often contain up to 4,000 birds. For these adult birds MAFF suggests five ducks per mZ on wire floors and three per m2 on solid floors. Optimum fertility is promoted via lighting regimes and genetic selection. The birds are regarded as mere machines, to produce the sperm/eggs for the meat market. Anyone who has observed with understanding the lively and complex behaviour of ducks in their natural environment will agree that the supermarket' duck and its parents lead a barren existence.
Catching, Transport and Slaughter
Ducks are the Cinderella of factory-farmed poultry. Little is known about their suffering.

A draft European document on duck welfare mentions 'the welfare problems which currently arise' (in relation to catching and transport)- problems no doubt similar to the cruel 'problems' seen in the chicken and turkey industries.

Despite research which indicates that ducks require a much stronger electric current to ensure a humane stun, no specific recommendations are given for ducks in the MAFF sode for the welfare of poultry at slaughter.


'On one occasion I saw and sketched a female tending her hatchlings. The young will get careful attention from both male and female adults before they develop the necessary independence to be on the move with the family group. John Seerey- Lester.
(Image - 'The Hatchlings' by John Seerey-Lester) (Artist's copyright)
Ostriches -- The Poultry Industry's Latest Victim
The ostrich, the world's largest flightless bird, has inhabited this planet for fifty million years. Its behaviour patterns are rich and complex. Males act out balletic pre-mating 'dances' and the parents take turns in incubating the eggs. Males (whose feathers are darker) sit on the nest by night, the females by day. Both care for the chicks for their first ten months of life.

Ostriches can grow to be nine feet tall and live for up to eighty years, breeding into their forties. Thriving in hot, dry climates they roam over vast distances and can run at speeds of up to 40 mph.

The Farmed Ostrich
A rash of ostrich breeding centres is spreading over the UK, with parent stock, chicks and fertile eggs being imported and exported, changing hands at inflated prices.

These impressive birds are now confined in small paddocks, the chicks often herded into sheds to protect them from the British climate. Ostriches have no preen gland, so their feathers are not 'waterproofed' and easily become sodden. In the absence of the seeds and grasses of the South African veld, they're fed on broiler-type pellets, containing slaughter house by-products.

Ostriches are Classed as 'Dangerous Wild Animals' and Must Be Licensed*
Eggs are removed daily to be arificially incubated. Males become highly aggressive at th is time and farmers take elaborate precautions to protect themselves from attack;
'... a kick from one of those powerful legs with its huge claw can cause horrible injury; and fatal attacks have been recorded.'
Dr Brian Bertram, Director of
Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust
Ostrich Chicks
For their first three months of life ostrich chicks are very delicate, often dying for no apparent reason (the 'fading chick syndrome'). In their natural habitat ostrich chicks are strong and hardy.

* At the time of writing - Jan 1995

Image - For their first three months of life ostrich chicks are very delicate
Photo: FAWN

Diseases of Intensification
Infectious diseases and leg problems are emerging, and stress is a major killer too. Self-inflicted injuries occur when the easily frightened ostriches run into fencing, or damage each other, accidentally or through aggression. Much of their suffering is associated with their life in captivity and the deprivation ofparental care.
Catching, Transport and Slaughter
It's all too easy to imagine the stresses and injuries that will occur when these h uge a nd h ig h ly-stru ng birds a re rou nded up for siaug hter. To render the ostrich blind and helpless, a 'hood' (often an old sock) is forced over his or her head, and, like a condem ned criminal, this magnificent bird is led to slaughter. All this, to supply a 'novelty' meat and expensive leather and feathers for the fashion trade!
The Breeding Stock
As with all commercially-reared poultry today, the breeding stock lead unnatural and stressful lives. In the wild, ostriches select their mates carefully, the males indulging in exotic and prolonged dances to attract the chosen female. Both sexes are dedicated parents for nearly a year, after which time the chicks can fend for themselves. Life on a British farm will rob ostriches of the opportunity to fulfil most oftheir basic instincts.
Fears for the Future
There are indications from all over the world that ostriches are being forced down the same road as broiler chickens and turkeys, in a ruthless quest for quick weight gain and profits. Already farmed ostriches are suffering many of the health and welfare problems endured by billions of intensively- reared poultry.
'Other efficiencv gains could he made by doubling the amount of meat each bird produces. Dr Coleman (president of a U.S. poultry consulting firm - Ed.) believes that the red and blue neck ostriches, which on average weigh 500 to 550 pounds each, call be bred to grow up to 1000 pounds.'
World Poultry, Misset, Vol 10, No 8,'94

'The Hatchlings' by John Seerey-Lester will be available in a limited edition print released by NWF editions, UK distributor:
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