Investigation Exposes Cruelty and Suffering at ‘Free-Range’ Chicken Farm

The term “free-range” might conjure up images of chickens enjoying fresh air and sunshine, and feeling the earth beneath their feet as they roam grassy fields, but another investigation has brought to light a starkly different reality.

This week, In Defense of Animals, along with Australia’s Seven News, released an investigation that has exposed the disturbing conditions of chickens raised on a free-range farm in Perth. Mt Barker Chicken’s facilities certainly don’t line up with what might be expected — or what was advertised.

Marketing vs Reality #1

Marketing vs. reality Photo Credit: In Defense of Animals

According to IDA, Mt Barker has been endorsed by the RSPCA in its “Humane Shopping” guide as a “free range and humanely farmed RSPCA Approved chicken product.” The company claims its “animals are free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain or distress,” but the reality for these chickens doesn’t even come close — and it certainly doesn’t line up with how this company is marketing its products.

Marketing vs Reality #2

Marketing vs. reality Photo Credit: In Defense of Animals

Sadly, thousands of birds are crammed inside dark sheds, where sick, injured and dying chickens were left untreated. Many had ammonia burns and respiratory problems, leaving them unable to stand or move on their own. The bodies of those who died were left to rot and were cannibalized by others.

According to IDA, the footage obtained also showed two breaches of West Australia’s codes of practice for poultry, but those codes are merely guidelines.

More concerning is that, because there is no legal definition of free-range meat in Australia, producers and retailers are free to make up their own claims. Although national welfare standards will be released later this year, going against them will not be illegal.

While this investigation took place in Australia, problems surrounding certification and labeling schemes also abound in the U.S.

Unfortunately, as consumers grow increasingly concerned with the way farm animals are treated, the industry has responded with certification programs and labels, including free-range, cage-free, humane certified and organic, that don’t always reflect what we expect when we hear them. And that often leaves consumers supporting companies that may not align with their values.

“Coles, Woolworths and Health Freak Cafe customers will be shocked and sickened by these disgusting and cruel horrors,” said Dr. Marilyn Kroplick, President of In Defense of Animals. “Australians are being fed a myth, there is nothing humane about free range chicken. We demand that live cameras be installed in chicken farms so that people can see for themselves whether the animals are free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain or distress,” Kroplick emphasized.

While IDA is calling on Mt Barker Chicken to increase transparency so consumers can actually make informed decisions, it’s also urging  people to help end this suffering by leaving animals off of their plates.

For more information on this investigation and ways to help, check out In Defense of Animals and Mt Barker Misery.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

174 comments

Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Kimberly W
Kimberly W6 months ago

TY

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Paulo R
Paulo R8 months ago

free range is BS. Think of the poor animals and try a meatless diet. ty

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla9 months ago

Oh labels.... It seems they mean nothing :(

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Kathleen E
Kathleen E9 months ago

Free range? I'd say factory farming. Hang your heads RSPCA!!

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Ann B
Ann B9 months ago

EVEN with severe penalties this will NOT help the chickens!!!

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Carl R
Carl R9 months ago

Thanks!!!

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Jennifer H
Jennifer H9 months ago

Disheartening. How can we believe anything anymore.

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Carl R
Carl R10 months ago

Thanks!!!

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Janis K
Janis K10 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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