Animal rights groups have revealed that Spain´s new found fondness for turkeys has led to the birds leading agonising lives in factory farms because loopholes exempt them from welfare laws protecting other animals.
Thousands of turkeys are currently being killed ready for the Christmas market and in Spain – which have seen a rapid increase in the number of turkey farms – some 70% of the meat produced in the almost 2,000 farms is destined to be sold abroad.
But as this grim footage shows, animal welfare standards are woefully lacking in the care of the birds who typically live only a few weeks despite having a lifespan that can stretch up to 15 years.
Belen Gonzalez – head of research at welfare group AnimaNaturalis – said in a statement obtained by Newsflash from AnimaNaturalis: “During the investigation, we have documented dying animals with bone malformations and difficulty getting up or walking.
“Others had serious injuries probably caused by their peers, with whom they are forced to compete for the available space as they grow up.”
She added: “In all the farms we visited we have found turkeys living with carcasses. This is common at any stage of the farm, both during the first days of the poults’ life and in the weeks prior to slaughter.
“Their entire existence is hell.”
The animal rights group wants tougher standards to be applied to turkey farms and said that the lack of hygiene in the facilities also contributes to the proliferation of diseases.
Belen added: “Turkeys spend their entire lives on the same ground, called bedding, where slurry and moisture accumulate.
“Constant contact with litter exposes turkeys to skin conditions such as plantar dermatitis and skin tears.
“Another problem is the high concentration of ammonia, as well as the accumulation of viruses, bacteria and fungi, which are the cause of respiratory infections .
“Some symptoms of the most common diseases of this type are severe coughing, sneezing, eye and nasal discharges, edema, pneumonia and joint disorders such as arthritis or tendinitis.”
She explained how it is easier and cheaper for farms to simply let sick birds die where they stand than try to treat them.
When the birds are ready to be killed, they are stunned in electrified water before their necks are cut and they bleed to death.
And at high production periods like Christmas, staff cannot even be sure the birds have been stunned before they are killed.
But the popularity of lean turkey meat means that the suffering is now going on all year round instead of just at Christmas.
Spain began producing turkeys for the export market in the 70s, with consumption almost exclusively at Christmas.
But latest statistics from 2019 show that of the total 237,337 tonnes of turkey meat, only 30 per cent was destined for national consumption.
The welfare group explained: “There is no European animal welfare regulation that applies directly to turkeys, which is why it is one of the most unprotected species, whose inherent needs are not taken into account during exploitation.
“With the launch of this research and the harsh images it contains, we at AnimaNaturalis are calling on consumers to consider reducing or totally dispensing with the consumption of animals during the holidays.