Chicken Farmers of Canada has hit back at an anti-animal agriculture group’s “outrageous and unsubstantiated claims” about brutal practices on poultry farms across the country.
At issue is a video distributed by Mercy for Animals, a U.S.-based group that purports to show abuse on chicken on Canadian farms.
“We believe that this video footage isn’t from a Canadian chicken farm and appears to be recycled from previous propaganda campaigns that have taken place in other countries,” says CFC chairman Benoit Fontaine. “Canada’s chicken farmers are appalled by the inaccurate and irresponsible portrayal of Canadian chicken production that is being used to target retail and food-service companies.”
Mercy and other groups opposed to animal agriculture practices have been using questionable information to fuel their campaigns and push an agenda to eliminate animal agriculture and shutter Canadian farms, he said. “These tactics are shameful, inaccurate, deliberately misleading, and undermine the hard work and animal welfare standards of local Canadian farmers throughout the country,” Fontaine said.
Meanwhile Mercy attacked a newly released Care Code for laying hens because it doesn’t immediately phase out battery cages. It accused the National Farmed Animal Care Council for flagrantly disregarding the interests of Canadian taxpayers, consumers, grocers, and food producers, who all agreed to eliminate cruel cages years ago in developing the code.
It said its undercover investigations found abuse of laying hens at factory farms across Canada, “such as Kuku Farms and Creekside Farms — suppliers to Burnbrae Farms — and Gray Ridge Farms. Confining hens in cages is one of the cruelest forms of institutionalized animal abuse in existence. Responding to caring consumers, nearly every major Canadian food company, including Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, Loblaw, Metro, Sobeys, and Walmart, has recently pledged to switch to cage-free eggs.”
Egg Farmers of Canada didn’t respond directly to the charges.
However, Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, which participated in the development of the Care Codes, said the cages are being phased out under the new Care Code.
“Barren battery cages will be a thing of the past,” she said. “We’re relieved to see the tide turning on these practices even though the timeline is much longer than we’d like. But the change is actually starting right now – not in 15 years. With every year that passes, fewer and fewer hens will be in these cramped, inhumane cages.”
The current date for completing the phase-out is 2036.
“The new code provides progressive standards for hen welfare in Canada,” said poultry welfare expert Dr. Ian Duncan, who is representing the Federation of Humane Societies in its development. “We worked diligently for almost four years to secure these important new welfare commitments.”
EFC chairman Roger Pelissero said, “Canada’s more than 1,000 egg farmers are deeply committed to and strive for continuous improvements when it comes to the care and well-being of their hens.” The new code will “serve as a key building block to our national Animal Care Program.”
Chicken Farmers administers its Care Code through a mandatory, third-party-audited Animal Care Program across all 2,800 chicken farms in Canada.
“Canadian chicken farms are run by hard-working men and women who take to heart their responsibility to uphold animal health and welfare on their farm and share Canadian values,” Fontaine said. “They are proud ambassadors in promoting and defending their good management practices, and believe that there is no defence for the mistreatment of birds.”
About 90 per cent of Canada’s chicken farms are family owned and operated and as they’re only paid for every bird that goes to a processor, it’s good economic sense to care for their birds, CFC said.
“If birds were treated in the ways described by activists, it would result in significant economic losses to the farmer,” CFC said. “The chickens are not caged and are raised without the use of steroids or hormones. The number of chicks placed in the barn is predetermined to ensure that density limits are not surpassed and as they age they continue to have room to roam.
“Chicken health is continually improving. Bird mortality, condemnations, lameness, and ascites have decreased significantly over the past decades.”