Secret footage shows workers abusing chickens at ministry-backed plant

After Agriculture Ministry allows pilot program at farm to cage chickens intended for meat industry, video appears to disprove claims it will reduce suffering

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Workers at an industrial chicken farm secretly filmed violently handling birds that have been caged under a Ministry of Agriculture-approved pilot project. (Courtesy, Animals Now)
Workers at an industrial chicken farm secretly filmed violently handling birds that have been caged under a Ministry of Agriculture-approved pilot project. (Courtesy, Animals Now)

Secret footage filmed by animal rights activists appears to give the lie to a system being piloted by the Agriculture Ministry that would keep poultry destined for the meat industry in cages, based on the assertion that the birds can then be transported to the slaughterhouse without being manhandled and therefore suffer less.

The footage shows workers pulling the fowl out of the cages, grabbing them by whatever limb comes to hand, and hurling them in piles onto conveyor belts that lead to crates for transport. They do it so quickly that many of the birds fall out of their hands. Others fall off the conveyor belt. The workers can be seen picking them up by their wings or their necks and violently yanking out those that have become stuck on the conveyor belt.

The birds are stuffed so tightly into the crates that limbs can be seen sticking out of the sides. In some cases, the birds are squeezed on top of one another.

Meat chickens, known as broilers, are usually raised on the floor in big hangars.

Recently, the Agriculture Ministry gave the green light for a farm to cage its 280,000 heads of poultry as a pilot. Cages are routinely used for laying hens, but to date, have not been used in Israel for broilers.

The result, according to the nonprofit Animals Now, is that “workers abuse the birds as if they were objects that can be thrown, flipped, crushed, slammed and dropped while they flap their wings and show signs of strain and severe distress.

“This is not only abuse under the Animal Welfare Act but is contrary to the explicit guidelines laid down in the Poultry Transport Regulations which are designed to protect the birds.”

Spokeswoman Shira Hertzanu of Animals Now said, “It’s not clear whether the Agriculture Ministry is lying or has no idea what is going on under its nose. What’s certain is that this chicken farm can no longer be allowed to operate. We have submitted a complaint for animal abuse and demand that this torture device be closed down for good.”

The world is moving away from caging chickens at industrial farms, Hertzanu added. Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster has said he intends to abolish battery cages for laying hens.

“It’s totally absurd that in 2020, they introduce a new system in Israel to cage broilers for meat that to date have been kept in closed coops without cages,” Hertzanu said. “These chickens suffer anyway. They undergo genetic modification to give them enormous breasts. Their young legs can barely support the weight of their bodies and many suffer from disabilities and injuries. They’re slaughtered when they’re only 35 days old, an age when, in nature, they would still be under the protection of their mothers’ wings.”

A statement from the Agriculture Ministry said that potential financial support for the move to cage broilers was “irrelevant” at present, given the absence of a state budget. At this point, the issue was also “not a priority,” it added. The cage initiative had come from the private sector and was being evaluated by professionals, it said.

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