Animal rights activists accuse farm of forcing caged hens to live in space smaller than A4 paper

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A battery egg farm has been accused of forcing its caged hens to live in a space smaller than a sheet of A4 paper – in violation of animal welfare laws.

Animal rights activists investigating the Kinswood eggs in West Sussex say they have found cages full of at least 100 hens measuring 118 inches (300 cm) by 60 inches (152 cm) – or 70 inches2 (456 cm2) piece per bird. It’s 70 percent the size of an A4 sheet.

Undercover footage, shot on the farm and released today exclusively by MailOnline, reveals birds jostling each other on their featherless backs inside the cage as they struggle to find enough square.

A complaint was lodged with the Department of Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) by the organization Animal Equality. They also allege that the birds did not have adequate access to nesting boxes and litter boxes, and did not have access to legally required nail shortening devices.

Although the majority of eggs bought in Britain are free range or organic, many companies still use battery-farmed eggs to make products where they are used as an ingredient such as cakes, cookies and dishes. prepared. Consumers can check labels on items to determine if they contain eggs from free-range or organic hens.

Kinswood Eggs did not respond to repeated requests for comment from MailOnline.

Animal rights activists have accused Kinswood Eggs in West Sussex of overcrowding their battery chicken cages. In the photo above, a cage on the farm

Investigators said they found that in a cage, each bird had 30% less space than required by animal welfare regulations.  In the photo above, a cage on the farm

Investigators said they found that in a cage, each bird had 30% less space than required by animal welfare regulations. In the photo above, a cage on the farm

Investigators said it was one of the overcrowded cages.  Each bird was only 70 percent the size of an A4 sheet of paper to roam around

Investigators said it was one of the overcrowded cages. Each bird was only 70 percent the size of an A4 sheet of paper to roam around

Animal rights activists visited the farm three times between June and September this year, where they documented the conditions the birds lived in as they transitioned from day-old chicks to laying hens.

In the recently released batch of footage, tiny chicks are shown squealing madly as they scurry through a wire fence to food containers. One is shown lying on his side with his feet against the side of the cage. He vibrates with every breath – a clear sign he’s in pain, experts say.

When activists returned in July, they found squealing feathered laying hens as they scurried over the withered corpse of a cage mate. The body appears to have been in the cage for some time, which would be in violation of animal welfare laws requiring dead animals to be promptly removed.

When activists visited the farm for the third time in September, they found laying hens in cramped cages stacked in rows four cages high. Many had lost most of their feathers, possibly due to the heat, stressful conditions, and aggression from cage mates.

In one clip, a hen is shown pecking at the bald skin of another hen, which is said to cause considerable pain to the birds and prevent the feathers from growing back.

The images also reveal activists measuring the cages and counting the hens inside. It also reveals nesting boxes inside the cages – and it is not excluded that scratching areas are not behind them.

Battery hens were given more space under EU regulations, but these did not prohibit the practice

Battery hens were given more space under EU regulations, but these did not prohibit the practice

Investigators also filmed small chicks in breeding cages.  Birds spend several weeks there before they are old enough to lay eggs.  A dead chick is shown on the floor of the cage

Investigators also filmed small chicks in breeding cages. Birds spend several weeks there before they are old enough to lay eggs. A dead chick is shown on the floor of the cage

Little chicks are forced to live on fences and will stay in a confined space all their lives.  The above photo was taken by animal investigators

Little chicks are forced to live on fences and will stay in a confined space all their lives. The above photo was taken by animal investigators

What are the space regulations for battery hens?

Battery hens – or those living in so-called enriched cages – are each supposed to have at least one sheet of A4 paper.

The Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states that “Laying hens must have at least 97 inches2 (750 cm2) of cage area per hen, of which 90 inches2 (600 cm2) must be usable “.

They add that each bird must have “access to a nest” and “litter such that pecking and scratching is possible”.

The regulations for the welfare of farm animals, published by DEFRA, state that “Laying hens must have at least 97 inches2 (750 cm2) of cage area per hen, of which 90 inches2 (600 cm2) must be usable ”. They add that each bird must have “access to a nest” and “litter such that pecking and scratching is possible”.

Professor Andrew Knight, director of the Center for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester, told MailOnline after viewing the footage that the birds were experiencing “serious welfare issues.”

“Some of these birds were so tight that they would have found it difficult to adopt highly motivated natural behaviors such as stretching and flapping the wings, causing stress and poor well-being,” he said. .

“Continued aggression is likely when chickens are chronically stressed in this way, causing clearly visible feather loss (due to pecking) in many birds. This would have been exacerbated by the sterile environment in which these chickens were housed, devoid of most aspects of the chicken’s natural environment, and preventing highly motivated natural behaviors such as foraging in leaf litter.

He added: “Also visible were a chick trapped in a cage wire and several dead chickens in cages. Failure to remove carcasses in time is unsanitary, predisposing to disease and possibly increasing rodent infestation. common in these farms. ‘

Abigail Penny, who heads Animal Equality, said: “Just days after birth, these fragile chicks are wrapped in wire cages and locked up for life. The companies love to paint a picture of happy hens lovingly laying eggs for us, but they fail to add that around 40 percent of UK hens are kept in cages. Cages are incredibly cruel – it’s time they were banned.

She added: “The conditions we filmed at this ‘Laid in Britain’ certified egg farm are, frankly, appalling. If you saw rodent poison and rotting carcasses at a local restaurant, you would never be able to eat there again.

When investigators returned to watch the chicks after they grew up, they found pullets - or hens before they started to lay eggs.  The desiccated carcass of a cage mate was photographed on the floor of one of the cages

When investigators returned to watch the chicks after they grew up, they found pullets – or hens before they started to lay eggs. The desiccated carcass of a cage mate was photographed on the floor of one of the cages

DEFRA said: “There is specific and strictly enforced legislation to protect the welfare of all poultry, which every operational farm must comply with.

“We take all potential violations of animal welfare laws very seriously and investigate all allegations. In case of violation of social regulations, appropriate measures are always taken. ‘

Kinswood Eggs did not respond to repeated requests for comment from MailOnline.

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