How do chickens live and grow? I’m not talking about those chickens that are raised for egg production, but those that are raised for meat production. Do you think they walk in the yard and dig in the hay? Roaming the field and swarming in the dust? Nothing like this. Broilers are kept in cramped barns of 20000-100000 or more and all they can see is a ray of light.
Imagine a huge barn with a bed of straw or wood shavings, and without a single window. When newly hatched chicks are placed in this barn, there seems to be plenty of room, little fluffy clumps running around, eating and drinking from automatic feeders. In the barn, a bright light is on all the time, it is turned off for only half an hour once a day. When the light is off, the chickens are asleep, so when the light is suddenly turned on, the chickens get frightened and may trample each other to death in a panic. Seven weeks later, just before they are to be put under the knife, the chickens are tricked into growing twice as fast as they would naturally. Constant bright lighting is part of this trick, as it is the light that keeps them awake, and they eat longer and eat much more than usual. The food they are given is high in protein and promotes weight gain, sometimes this food contains minced pieces of meat from other chickens. Now imagine the same barn overflowing with grown chickens. It seems incredible, but each individual weighs up to 1.8 kilograms and each adult bird has an area the size of a computer screen. Now you can hardly find that straw bed because it has never been changed since that first day. Although the chickens have grown very quickly, they still chirp like little chicks and have the same blue eyes, but they look like adult birds. If you look closely, you can find dead birds. Some don’t eat, but sit and breathe heavily, all because their hearts can’t pump enough blood to supply their entire huge body. Dead and dying birds are collected and destroyed. According to farm magazine Poultry Ward, about 12 percent of chickens die this way—72 million each year, long before they have to be slaughtered. And this number is growing every year. There are also things that we cannot see. We can’t see that their food contains the antibiotic needed to prevent diseases that spread easily in such overcrowded barns. We also cannot see that four out of five birds have broken bones or deformed legs because their bones are not strong enough to support their body weight. And, of course, we do not see that many of them have burns and ulcers on their legs and chest. These ulcers are caused by ammonia in chicken manure. It is unnatural for any animal to be forced to spend its entire life standing on its dung, and ulcers are just one of the consequences of living in such conditions. Have you ever had tongue ulcers? They are quite painful, aren’t they? So very often unfortunate birds are covered with them from head to toe. In 1994, 676 million chickens were slaughtered in the UK, and almost all of them lived in such appalling conditions because people wanted cheap meat. The situation is similar in other countries of the European Union. In the US, 6 billion broilers are destroyed every year, 98 percent of which are farmed under the same conditions. But have you ever been asked if you want meat to cost less than a tomato and be based on such cruelty. Unfortunately, scientists are still looking for ways to achieve even more weight in the shortest possible time. The faster the chickens grow, the worse for them, but the more money the producers will earn. Not only do chickens spend their entire lives in overcrowded barns, the same goes for turkeys and ducks. With turkeys, it is even much worse because they have retained more natural instincts, so captivity is even more stressful for them. I bet that in your mind a turkey is a white waddling bird with a terribly ugly beak. The turkey is, in fact, a very pretty bird, with black tail and wing feathers that shimmer in red-green and copper. Wild turkeys are still found in some places in the USA and South America. They sleep in trees and build their nests on the ground, but you have to be very fast and agile to catch even one, as they can fly at 88 kilometers per hour and can maintain that speed for a mile and a half. Turkeys roam in search of seeds, nuts, grass, and small crawling insects. Huge fat creatures bred specifically for food cannot fly, they can only walk; they were bred specifically to give as much meat as possible. Not all turkey chicks are grown in completely artificial conditions of broiler barns. Some are kept in special sheds, where there is natural light and ventilation. But even in these sheds, the growing chicks have almost no free space and the floor is still covered with sewage. The situation with turkeys is similar to the situation with broiler chickens – growing birds suffer from ammonia burns and constant exposure to antibiotics, as well as heart attacks and leg pain. The conditions of unbearable crowding become a cause of stress, as a result, the birds simply peck each other out of boredom. Manufacturers have come up with a way to prevent birds from harming each other – when the chicks, just a few days old, cut off the tip of their beak with a hot blade. The most unfortunate turkeys are those that are bred to maintain the breed. They grow to enormous sizes and reach a weight of about 38 kilograms, their limbs are so deformed that they can hardly walk. Doesn’t it seem strange to you that when people sit down at the table at Christmas to glorify peace and forgiveness, they first kill someone by cutting their throats. When they “groan” and “ahh” and say what a delicious turkey, they turn a blind eye to all the pain and dirt in which this bird’s life has passed. And when they cut open the huge breast of the turkey, they don’t even realize that this big piece of meat has turned the turkey into a freak. This creature can no longer pick up a mate without human help. For them, the wish “Merry Christmas” sounds like sarcasm. And from a medical point of view, this meat is repeatedly and completely poisoned by stress hormones, antibiotics and other growth enhancers.