Highlights from Expert Statements
Independent, nationally and world-renowned academic and professional experts in farmed animal welfare and veterinary medicine reviewed the video footage from Mercy For Animals Canada's undercover exposé at a Burnbrae Farms egg supplier—McDonald's Canada's exclusive egg provider. Below are some of their statements.
Ian Duncan, PhD
Dr. Duncan is professor emeritus of applied ethology in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Guelph and also holds the oldest university chair in animal welfare in North America. He has published two books, 35 book chapters, and more than 150 scientific papers. Dr. Duncan writes:
It is obvious that these birds were not being inspected frequently enough. The high number of trapped, sick and injured birds in the cages, as well as those forced to live on the manure belt, is unacceptable.
The killing methods used in this facility, namely throwing chicks against a hard surface or suffocating them in garbage bags, is completely unacceptable.
Mary Richardson, DVM
For over 20 years, Dr. Richardson has been involved in animal welfare issues. She chaired the Animal Welfare Committee for the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association and produced policy statements on a wide range of topics. Dr. Richardson also served as chair of the Animal Care Review Board for the solicitor general of Ontario, during which time she presided over court cases involving animal abuse. She was also a board member of the Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph. Dr. Richardson states:
After watching the Mercy For Animals Canada video of two chicken barns, it is clear that there are serious animal welfare concerns.
If we are going to use sentient creatures such as chickens for our own purposes, the law states that we must treat them humanely, and ensure a quick and painless death. This producer is obviously not meeting these standards.
Debi Zimmermann, DVM
Dr. Zimmermann graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988. In addition to her doctoral degree, she holds a degree in biology with a specialization in zoology (University of Alberta). She is a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, the Edmonton Small Animal Veterinary Association, and the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management. Dr. Zimmermann writes:
The stocking of birds in high density is inherently inhumane. With 7–10 hens squeezed into each small barren cage there is barely any room to move, let alone flap a wing. The inability to express natural behaviors like flying, nest building, mothering, dust bathing, or investigative behaviors further frustrates their innate psychological and physical needs.
Additionally, the negative effects from sensory deprivation from constant dim lighting and the lack of mental stimulation contributes to extreme anxiety, frustration and aggression.
Sara Shields, PhD
Dr. Sara Shields holds a doctorate in animal behaviour from the University of California, Davis and has extensive experience as a research scientist, teacher, and consultant in animal welfare with an emphasis on the well-being of poultry. Dr. Shields states:
Battery cages are iconic of the serious welfare issues that characterize intensive production agriculture. These barren, restrictive wire enclosures do not permit the hens to engage in any of their wide array of natural behavior. Lack of normal movement and exercise leads to severe disuse osteoporosis, a condition in which the hens' bones become weak and frail. Hens in battery cages often show severe feather loss, as depicted in the video. This is largely caused by overcrowding and abrasion against cage-mates and the wire bars of the cage.
The video footage demonstrates the unfortunate way that hens are treated as mere units of production, not as the living, breathing, feeling animals that they are. These egg production operations are in serious need of reform.
Greg Burkett, DVM
Dr. Burkett is a board-certified avian veterinarian in North Carolina who serves as chair of the AAV Avian Welfare Committee and as an adjunct professor of avian medicine and surgery at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Burkett concludes:
I find the video that I reviewed to be repulsive and sad; repulsive because there is a complete disregard to the pain and suffering that these birds are experiencing; and sad because these helpless birds suffered, unnecessarily.
Anya Yushchenko, DVM
Dr. Anya Yushchenko graduated from Kharkov Zooveterinary Academy in Ukraine in 2002. After moving to Canada in 2007, Dr. Yushchenko completed her national board exams and graduated from the Veterinary Skills Training and Enhancement Program at the Ontario Veterinary College. Dr. Yushchenko writes:
The video presents institutionalized cruelty of an intolerable degree. Chickens are deprived of their basic needs and suffer from constant pain and discomfort from the moment of birth to the end of their short, tortured lives.
Olivier Berreville, PhD
Dr. Berreville holds a doctorate in biology from Dalhousie University. Having grown up around farmed animals in Europe, he has also acquired field experience documenting the confinement, transportation, and slaughter of animals in Canada. He has presented on various aspects of farmed animal welfare at universities, institutes, and conferences. Dr. Berreville states:
After reviewing hours of footage from these facilities and watching the birds as they grew from day old chicks to mature egg-laying hens, I am struck by the rapid deterioration of them—first psychologically as they started to show signs of fear and stress within days of their arrival, to physically as they became caught in cage wire, mangled by factory machinery or suffered from open wounds and broken beaks—all of which went untreated without proper veterinary care.
The practices I reviewed are totally unacceptable and should result in animal cruelty charges.
Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production
After a comprehensive two-year study, the independent Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, concluded that battery cages should be phased out:
After reviewing the literature, visiting production facilities, and listening to producers themselves, the Commission believes that the most intensive confinement systems, such as restrictive veal crates, hog gestation pens, restrictive farrowing crates, and battery cages for poultry, all prevent the animal from a normal range of movement and constitute inhumane treatment.1
Scientific Veterinary Committee of the European Commission
The Scientific Veterinary Committee provides veterinary expertise to the executive body of the European Union. The Committee concludes:
Battery cage systems provide a barren environment for the birds. It is clear that because of its small size and its barrenness, the battery cage as used at present has inherent severe disadvantages for the welfare of hens.2
1 Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. 2008. Putting meat on the table: industrial farm animal production in America. Executive summary. www.ncifap.org/_images/PCIFAPSmry.pdf. Accessed October, 2013.
2 Scientific Veterinary Committee Animal Welfare Section. 1996. The welfare of laying hens. For the European Commission; Report nr Doc VI/B/II.2. http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sc/oldcomm4/out33_en.pdf, p. 109. Accessed October, 2013.
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