8. ‘Unwanted’ chicks are gassed or ground up alive
Shortly after chicks destined to be sold for their meat hatch, they’re ‘sorted’ into groups — ‘viable’ and ‘unviable’. While the former will be condemned to a short life (most likely in a factory farm) the latter are considered worthless. Millions of tiny chicks who fall into this category are killed by either gassing or being dropped into a ‘maceration’ machine and ground up alive. This is just the ‘cost of doing business’ for the chicken meat industry — and this practice is entirely legal in Australia.
Our friends from Anonymous for Animal Rights in Israel recently documented the terrible fate of these ‘worthless’ chicks in a world-first investigation. Aussie Farms and Animal Liberation NSW subsequently captured this brutal practice for the first time inside an Australian hatchery. Learn more about their investigation here.
A note about ‘free range’ chickens …
Free range chicken may sound better … but in reality there is no legal definition of this term and so standards can vary enormously. Even in the ‘best’ free range systems, chickens are usually genetically the same and grow at an unnatural rate, and thus are prone to many of the same welfare issues as chooks in factory farms. Additionally – and importantly – the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association requirements state that the birds have to be ‘fully feathered’ before they have access to outdoors, at 3 weeks old. But as they will be killed between 4-6 weeks old, ‘free range’ chickens may only have access to the outside for one week of their lives.
Ultimately both ‘factory farmed’ and ‘free-range’ animals are trucked to the same slaughterhouses — and for chickens killed for their meat, this process is particularly terrifying. Once these young birds reach ‘slaughter weight’, chicken catchers will grab them by their legs, stuff them into plastic crates, and transport them in all weather conditions to the slaughterhouse. Some abattoirs will use gas chambers to kill the birds, and at other slaughterhouses an electrified bath is used to ‘stun’ the animals before their throats are cut. Many chickens may arrive with dislocated hips and fractures only to be strung up painfully by their legs and forced to hang upside-down in metal stirrups, as a conveyor belt carries them through the bath, and towards an automated knife. And that’s when things go ‘well’. It doesn’t always — as investigations inside Australian abattoirs have revealed.