This is hardly egg-cellent news.

Unless you choose to turn a completely blind eye, it is no secret that factory farmed animals are kept in horrific conditions. 

We’ve all chosen to scroll past horrific leaked footage of factory farmed animals at one point or another. 

Some people find comfort in the fact that they purchase their animal products from free-range sources as opposed to factory farmed sources. ‘Free range’ certainly sounds a lot more idyllic. 

However, free-range evidently doesn’t mean ethical. “Miserable, bleeding, decomposing or dead” hens have been found at suppliers to one of the UK’s largest free-range egg brands. 

They were discovered after activists complained that the Happy Egg Company was “misleading consumers” by showing pictures of hens looking free and happy in tree-filled landscapes. 

Instead, it has been found that hens at three of the Happy Egg Company suppliers have been cramped into sheds. The sheds were so overcrowded that hens were found to be pecking each other in distress. 

Video footage reveals some hens basically bald, and others with bloody wounds. These ailments are thought to be caused by the aggressive behaviour from the hens as a result of their highly stressful living conditions. 

According to the activists, some of the ‘happy hens’ were found dead, with their corpses left rotting alongside the hens that were still alive. It was also reported that some sheds were ‘piled high with faeces’. 

RSPCA Assured

The farms at which these disturbing scenes were witnessed were all endorsed by RSPCA Assured – a scheme allegedly meant to guarantee welfare. 

When RSPCA Assured was alerted of the findings, it investigated and suspended the farms. However, the suspensions were lifted the following day after “rigourous, physical inspections” showed that it could not justify suspension. 

A Spokesperson for RSPCA said: “We are really saddened by some of the footage taken by Peta. There is no excuse for poor welfare.

“While the footage is very upsetting, following our recent visits we can reassure people that the birds on all three farms are being properly cared for to RSPCA welfare standards. However, as an extra precaution, they will be subject to additional unannounced visits over the coming months.

“We firmly believe it’s far better for us to work with producers to mend their ways and improve standards, where possible, than to walk away and risk those animals being farmed in lower conditions.”

A veterinary professor of animal welfare, Andrew Knight said: “The footage shows chickens packed into industrial sheds with very little enrichment.”

“Despite evidence that the chickens’ beaks have been trimmed, it appears that feather pecking – suggestive of stress and frustration – is still going on. It’s hard to imagine these chickens are happy.”

PETA

A spokesperson for PETA said: “Happy Egg Co is leading well-intentioned consumers into paying a premium for eggs produced by hens who they are told are ‘happy’, but the chickens we saw face much the same filth, misery and death as those on any other egg factory farm.” 

She went on to note – as many before her have done – that keeping birds in such conditions creates breeding grounds for deadly diseases such as bird flu and coronavirus. 

Further, she spoke of the general issues of the egg industry as a whole: “When the birds’ worn-out bodies can no longer produce enough eggs to be profitable, they’re sent to slaughter, often to be turned into ‘low-grade’ meat because their flesh is so bruised and battered.”

The Happy Egg Company

The Happy Egg company has said that inspections have taken place since the footage was released, and that welfare standards are being met. A spokesperson for the company said: 

“Maintaining the highest animal-welfare standards is extremely important to us, and we took immediate action when we were made aware of the existence of the video by the RSPCA after they were approached by Peta.”

“We routinely audit farms to ensure that they conform to all UK industry standards, and we conducted additional inspections as a result of the video.

“Each of the farms also underwent independent, rigorous inspection by the RSPCA and all have been cleared, having the compulsory standards in place. Nothing is more important to us than the safe and proper care of our hens.”

Image via Alamy