Chicks Crushed, Drowned, and Burned to Death by Egg Hatcheries
You've never seen anything like this before – this is where your eggs and chicken meat are coming from!
From February to April 2016, an eyewitness from Anonymous for Animal Rights visited hatcheries and farms for chickens raised for meat (“broilers”) and for eggs (“layers”) in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana linked to Venkateshwara Hatcheries Private Limited, Suguna Foods, SR Group, Skylark Hatcheries, SH Group, and Diamond Group and provided the material to PETA India. Many of these companies are major players in the domestic chicken meat and egg industries, and some have facilities in other Indian states – which means the widespread cruelty documented can be considered representative of what takes place across India. Workers at some of these facilities used inhumane killing methods such as callously tossing live chicks who were sick, deformed, “low-grade”, or male – deemed worthless by the egg industry – into trash bins, fires, ponds, and grinders.
In egg hatcheries, a chick’s life begins and ends with suffering and pain. Problems in incubators mean chicks are sometimes born with organ deformities and other health complications, and rough methods of sex determination often cause the chicks pain and fear. The beaks of newly hatched female chicks in the egg industry are cut short with burning-hot blades, while male chicks in the egg industry as well as sick and other “reject” chicks in the meat industry are killed in gruesome ways soon after hatching. These living, feeling baby birds never get to be with their mothers, experience love and care, or feel the warmth of the sun.
On layer and broiler farms and hatcheries, a chick’s life begins and ends with suffering and pain. Problems in incubators means chicks are sometimes born with organ deformities and other health complications, and rough methods of sex determination often cause the chicks pain and fear. The beaks of newly hatched female chicks in the egg industry are cut short with burning-hot blades, while male chicks in the egg industry as well as sick and other “reject” chicks in the meat industry are killed in gruesome ways soon after hatching. These living, feeling baby birds never get to be with their mothers, experience love and care, or feel the warmth of the sun.
Cruelty Begins Before They're Even Hatched
Instead of allowing mother hens to sit on their eggs, broiler and layer farms use mechanical incubators to hatch chicks in bulk. According to the general manager of Venkateshwara’s layer hatchery, a single incubator can hold up to 90,000 eggs . At Diamond Group’s broiler farm, each incubator crate holds up to 180 eggs. When the chicks hatch, they can be extremely crowded – even to the point of being crushed . Sometimes they are pecked at by other chicks who have hatched.
Relying on machines to do nature’s work invites problems: at SR Group’s broiler hatchery, problems with the machines caused some chicks’ organs to protrude from their bodies.
A Painful 'Welcome' Into the World
Shortly after birth, both male and female chicks are “sexed”, or separated by sex. In this usually distressing procedure, workers handle chicks roughly and press forcefully on their sensitive genitals. At Venkateshwara’s layer hatchery, the investigator saw workers using the “vent sexing” method , in which they squeeze out the chicks’ faeces and then spread open their cloacas in order to determine their sex. Suguna Foods’ broiler hatchery also conducts sexing, although via a different method, because apparently male chicks grow faster.
Workers check for healthy and unhealthy chicks, which is known as “grading”. At a Venkateshwara hatchery, the investigator was told that 5% to 10% of chicks are graded as “poor quality”. Rejected chicks may be kept and sold for a cheaper price, but more often than not, they are killed . Suguna Foods’ broiler hatchery also apparently rejects 5% to 10% of newly hatched chicks for reasons that include hatching too early or too late, lameness, organ deformities, and general weakness. Live and dead rejected chicks are thrown into the same crates. Some live chicks desperately peck at other chicks’ carcasses, and some are discarded while still trying to hatch.
When chicks have only been alive for a few days, farmers cut off a large portion of their beaks with a searing-hot blade – no painkillers are administered during this excruciating procedure. This is called “debeaking”, and it is intended to prevent chicks from hurting each other when they lash out in frustration caused by their intense confinement. But many chicks die of shock from the pain, and some die of starvation when it makes eating too painful.
Diamond Group uses a machine to debeak chicks who will be used for breeding on broiler farms eight or nine days after they hatch. A worker sits in front of the machine, picks up chicks one by one, and holds their beaks up to the burning-hot blade. Many birds defecate in distress during this procedure and cry out in fear and pain.
Gruesome Killing Methods: Drowning, Burning, Crushing, Suffocating, and Grinding
Diamond Group frequently kills newly hatched chicks by drowning them. The investigator saw chicks desperately trying to climb on top of each other and up the sides of barrels as workers poured soapy water over them. According to one employee, it takes up to 30 minutes for the chicks to die this way.
Another killing method is burning. The manager at Diamond Group told the eyewitness that burning the chicks is a slow process. Some who have already survived the attempt to drown them go on to survive being set on fire and are therefore burned a second time, a process that takes place over the course of two days. Burning chicks try to walk and struggle to breathe as the flames engulf them . SR Group’s broiler hatchery also burns chicks to death: the investigator saw burned chicks trying to escape and hide from the workers who were catching them and throwing them back into the fire.
When workers load and unload chicks onto and off trucks, they often step on them, crushing them to death. At SH Group’s layer hatchery, workers could be seen walking on the fragile baby birds while unloading drums full of others. The chicks at the bottom of these drums are crushed or suffocated, and workers carelessly smashed chicks between drums when stacking them or while rolling them. The investigator saw chicks so crushed that their organs were protruding from their bodies, which a worker said happens daily.
Sometimes smashed chicks were simply tossed into the waste bin while still alive. But at Suguna Foods’ broiler hatchery, workers dump live rejected chicks – some active and seemingly healthy, others injured, suffering from prolapsed organs, or only partially hatched – into large grinders along with dead chickens and egg shells. Their ground-up remains are turned into food for other animals.
Baby Chicks Sold as Fish Food
Many of the rejected chicks are sold to fish farms as food. Skylark’s broiler hatchery does this, according to a transporter and, to that end, carelessly loads thousands of starving newly hatched chicks – who are never fed and who peck at each other out of sheer desperation – into trucks for transport.
Trucks that have picked up chicks from SH Group pull right up to the water, and workers throw the chicks – whether living, dying, or dead – directly into fish tanks to drown or be eaten alive by fish. Terrified chicks try to escape and hide under rocks, but workers kick them into the water, and soon their feet are covered with chicks’ body parts and feathers. SH Group alone apparently hatches and kills about 5 million male chicks each month.
You Can Help Stop This!
This investigation exposes how major Indian egg hatcheries regularly hurt and kill baby chicks, but what about all the other layer and broiler hatcheries and farms churning out chicken flesh and eggs in India? Do your part to stop baby chickens from being crushed, drowned, burned, and abused in other ways by pledging to go vegan. Not only will you be taking a stand against this horrific animal abuse, you’ll also be safeguarding your health and the environment.