From February to March of this year, an undercover investigator for MFA documented cruelty and neglect at Horizon Poultry ― a Maple Leaf-owned hatchery in Hanover, Ontario that sells chicken under brands including Schneiders, Maple Leaf Natural Selections and Maple Leaf Prime.
Instead of being welcomed to the world by their mothers who would protect and nurture them, these fragile little newborns are born into a cold world of machines where they’ll be carelessly handled by workers.
The footage shows employees throwing chicks across the room and roughly flinging them into baskets, injured chicks left to suffer, live chicks being sent through a scalding hot washing machine where they’re burned and drowned and baskets full of chicks being dumped into overloaded macerators to be ground up alive.
Meanwhile workers are heard laughing and making callous remarks about what’s happening, including “Ha ha! So many birds gettin’ mangled!” and “They boil. I have no sympathy for them anymore.”
The company issued the typical post-undercover investigation statement to CBC News claiming that the remarks “don’t reflect the values of our workforce or culture, and her comments violate our animal welfare program” and that the company is “reviewing procedures and practices at this location to ensure that live chicks are removed safely at all times, as they should be.”
Sadly for the ones who survive, their misery won’t end after leaving the hatchery and will be shared by millions of other farm animals. This investigation comes only weeks after another one from Hybrid Turkeys, which also supplies Maple Leaf Foods, exposed egregious abuse of birds.
While these investigations are disturbing and hard to watch, they’re doing a service to both the animals who live behind closed doors on farms and consumers by continuing to bring ethical issues in animal agriculture into the public spotlight. MFA has filed a complaint with the Ontario Society for the Protection of Animals, which is responsible for enforcing animal cruelty laws, but much of what’s seen in this video and others like it is considered standard industry practice.
Even though throwing live baby chicks into a machine that will grind them up is repulsive and inhumane, it’s considered normal, like many other things done to farm animals.
For pigs, chickens, cows, turkeys and every other creature who has become a commodity, these are the things we need to think about when deciding whether or not to continue to consume animal products, and they are exactly the type of things the industry doesn’t want anyone pondering.
While companies continue to issue statements arguing that undercover footage is blown out of proportion, taken out of context, or merely showing isolated incidents, there have been too many to take those claims even remotely seriously anymore. What these investigations are bringing to light also shows the need to vehemently fight ag gag laws that keep popping up with the intention of stopping whistleblowers from exposing these abuses and shielding agribusinesses from accountability in these cases.
Meanwhile, MFA is reminding all of us that we can end the cruelty simply by changing our habits and adopting compassionate lifestyles that don’t involve the consumption of animal products.
Please sign the petition to urge the BC Chicken Marketing Board to investigate the Horizon hatchery and discipline all employees responsible for these abuses.
Photo credit: Thinkstock