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Going undercover - an investigator's account

News Section Icon Published 28/04/2008

An investigator for Compassion in World Farming visited a battery cage site in Devon. The conditions he found were horrendous yet legally acceptable. The investigation was featured exclusively in The Independent on Sunday.

The investigator describes the scenes he found in the video and text below...

Warning: this film features potentially upsetting scenes of animal cruelty
This footage was obtained during 2008 in the UK.

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"As soon as you come in from the fresh air, the smell hits you. It's a very dense animal smell combined with ammonia and disinfectant.

This particular place is by far the largest I've seen. There are 15,400 cages, with about five birds to a cage - that's a lot of birds, and that's just in one of seven similar sheds. The sheds are enormous. It takes about two minutes to walk from one end of the shed to the other. There are no windows, no natural light.

Long rows of cages are stacked five high. The cages are pretty small. The chicken's heads almost touch the tops of the cages. The hen's claws poke through the wire floor.

If a bird is in the way the others will clamber over them. It's a fight for food if they all want to feed at the same time from the trough at the front of the cage.

Everything is automated; the conveyor belt collecting the eggs and the feeding system. The processing plant is a set of buildings adjacent to the sheds. I expect the conveyor belt system will go straight to them. It's seems to be a big operation, with many lorries parked outside.

You get a sense of constant noise. There are that many birds moving about the noise is constant even without the mechanical noises of the conveyor belt and the ventilation fans when they kick in. There's a lot of dust in the atmosphere, and light feathers floating around.

The hens are crammed into their cages. I saw a huge amount of feather loss and wing damage. Many of the hen's chests are completely bare of feathers.

I've seen chickens living a free-range existence and it's like two different types of creatures. I'd like people to see where their eggs are coming from and know you have a choice. You only need to compare chickens at a place like this to those running around free-range.

Most people are unaware; just buy things because they're cheap. People should take a look at the film and make a conscious decision not to be part of it."

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