This footage shows seemingly dead chickens and others with breathing problems on farms where the animals are allegedly pumped with antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to be sold for slaughter.
The footage was recorded on four chicken farms in the regions of Castilla La Mancha and Murcia in central and southeastern Spain between late 2019 and early 2020 by an anonymous source.
Animal rights NGO Equalia, who shared the footage, say the Cobb and Ross breeds seen in the footage have been genetically selected to grow faster than formal.
The footage shows the animals packed into large dark barns and some of the chickens appear to be dead on the floor. Others can be seen lying on their backs with breathing problems and the NGO says this is one of the consequences of rearing chickens to gain weight quickly.
Equalia says other problems associated with this type of farming include dermatitis, malformations, broken feet and an increase in the death rate due to heart and lung problems.
The chickens, as they cannot stand their own weight when they are adults, stay lying on the ground for a lot of time, which generates physical problems and malformations.
The NGO says the chickens fall ill in contact with their own faeces and urine.
The NGO report that the farms usually use antibiotics, not only for sick chickens but also for healthy ones, in order to make them survive until their slaughter.
The antibiotics could reportedly increase the resistance against medicine in the humans who eat the chickens, making treatment against infection more difficult.
Equalia say there is a specific state program to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal production.
The NGO’s spokeswoman Maria Villaluenga said: “This research wants to give visibility to a problem that is very important for producers and customers.
“With our new campaign, we want to help the industry take a step toward a model of production which understands animal welfare as a business opportunity, not as an obstacle.”
Equalia say the chickens on the farms in the video are bred for 41 days until they weigh around 2.2 kilogrammes. The NGO said slower breeding structures, which see chickens raised for at least 56 days, cause fewer health problems in the chickens, see fewer antibiotics used and improve the chickens’ intestinal health.
Villaluenga said that “a product of better quality does not mean an economic effort on the part of customers. We pay for better quality meat with our health, the health of the animals and the environment”.
The NGO wants to make people, producers and the hospitality industry join the standards of the European Chicken Commitment, as other brands such as Danone, Papa Johns, KFC, Sodexo, M&S, Unilever and Waitrose have done.
The measures proposed by the NGO-backed European Chicken Commitment include an increase in the quality of air on farms, better illumination, changing breeds from fast-growing to slow-growing ones, and more humanitarian slaughter methods.
According to the data from the Agriculture, Fish and Food Ministry in Spain, almost 800 million chickens were slaughtered in 2018.