By Tom Collins
LISTOWEL — An independent animal care review panel says there was no wrong-doing at an egg farm after an animal activist group posted a video showing birds inside the barn.
Mercy for Animals, which believes that no animals should be eaten, posted a video in July that it says was filmed at a Gray Ridge farm at Listowel.
The group says the video shows “thousands of birds packed into filthy wire cages, hardly able to move without crawling over other birds. Severely sick and injured birds are left to suffer and slowly die without proper veterinary care, and the bodies of dead animals are seen rotting in cages with live birds still laying eggs for human consumption.”
The video asks consumers to “please leave eggs off your plate.”
But the independent panel put together by the newly-formed Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, a division of Farm & Food Care Canada and mandated to help the food system earn consumer trust, says the allegations are unfounded. They say the birds in the video appear to be fine with the exception of two birds.
The panel also says the housing conditions are good and that people should realize that birds naturally die every day. In one case, a bird has a “foaming eye” caused by a sinus issue that clears up on its own, said Penn State university animal scientist Gregory Martin.
“Videos like these tend to show the worst situation,” said Ontario poultry veterinarian Mike Petrik, one of the three experts on the panel. “The birds in this particular barn are all the same age — they are all old. A parallel might be to take video at a retirement home and criticize a city for how frail and sickly their citizens are. This video gives no context to what the barn is actually like in general and is not representative of the barns I work in across the province on a daily basis.”
The video can be found at www.henhell.ca.
The Egg Farmers of Ontario said the farm passed its inspection this past spring and that all egg farms in Ontario are inspected four times a year.
This is at least the seventh undercover video of Canadian farms that Mercy For Animals has released since December, 2012 accompanied by melancholic music to evoke emotion.
December 2012: Mercy For Animals video showed the then-normal farm practice of thumping — slamming an injured or dying piglet against a wall to kill it.
Ontario Pork says that the industry is moving away from thumping.
October 2013: An undercover video at two Alberta farms showed workers “thumping” the heads of birds and tossing live chicks into trash bags.
March, 2014: A video of the Hybrid Turkeys farm in Bright, west of Cambridge, showed employees appearing to club and kick turkeys. The company eventually pled guilty to one charge of animal cruelty while similar charges against five employees were dropped.
April, 2014: At Horizon Poultry at Hanover, north of Kitchener, a video showed chicks tossed into separate chutes according to gender, and dead chicks picked up by workers.
April, 2014: A worker at a Quebec veal factory farm was shown kicking calves. An employee was later fined $4,000 for violating the Quebec provincial Animal Health Protection Act.
June, 2014: At a B.C. dairy farm, workers kicked and punched a cow to get it to move and a chain was used to lift a sick cow out of a stall by its neck. The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals laid 20 counts of animal cruelty against seven employees.
March, 2015: A video of a Brampton abattoir showed birds arriving at the slaughterhouse already dead after being transported in hot weather in summer and cold weather in winter.