October 21, 2013 - 10:31 AM
VANCOUVER - An animal rights organization is urging McDonald's Canada to take a firm stand against what it calls "shocking animal cruelty" captured on a graphic video it says was taken at two Alberta farms.
The hidden-camera video filmed by Mercy for Animals Canada aired on the CTV show W5 last week. It shows hens crowded in battery cages, and chicks being violently smashed by workers and thrown into garbage bags.
"They're so crammed inside those cages they can't spread their wings, they can't walk, they can't turn around, they can't engage in any of their natural behaviour," said Stephane Perrais, director of operations with Mercy For Animals Canada.
"They spend one year of their miserable life in there, basically producing eggs and after that time period, they're considered spent by the industry because their productivity is declined, and then they're slaughtered."
The group says the footage was taken by an undercover investigator who was hired as a farm worker by Ku-Ku Farms and Creekside Grove Farms for 10 weeks in May.
The video also shows dead hens rotting in the cages, and chicks being covered in feces.
Mercy For Animals Canada says Creekside Grove Farms provides chicks to Ku-Ku Farms near Edmonton. Ku-Ku then supplies eggs to Ontario-based Burnbrae Farms, the primary egg supplier to McDonald's Canada.
Photos on the group's website also indicate eggs in trays with packing labels that show the eggs come from Ku-Ku Farms and are destined for Burnbrae Farms.
While Perrais said the provocative video does not address the quality of the eggs or food safety, his organization is calling for McDonald's to ban its egg suppliers from using hens that are confined in battery cages, which are barely bigger than the hens and prevent them from freely moving about.
The fast food giant confirmed it gets its eggs, used to make Egg McMuffins, from Burnbrae Farms. A statement said the restaurant chain does not condone animal abuse by its suppliers.
"We care about the humane treatment of animals and believe they should be free from cruelty, abuse and neglect," said spokeswoman Karin Campbell in the written statement emailed to The Canadian Press.
"Abuse is never tolerated in our supply chain and McDonald’s has strict policies in place concerning the treatment of animals that our suppliers must adhere to at all times. We also work with our suppliers and outside experts to continuously improve our standards and practices, both within McDonald’s and across the industry."
Egg Farmers of Canada, a non-profit organization that inspects egg producers across the country, said it has watched the W5 segment, and that what was aired was an "aberration" from normal practices.
"What we did see, and what I was exposed to on W5, was certainly very alarming and disappointing to me as an egg producer," said chairman Peter Clarke in a phone interview.
"I can tell you categorically that that activity that was shown in that video in regards to such things as how birds were being handled, how chicks were being disposed of…is something that does not go on in egg farms across this country."
Clarke said Egg Farmers of Canada inspects farms regularly to make sure producers are adhering to the industry's code of practice, but the inspections don't "necessarily ever prevent something as graphic and as disappointing as this taking place."
Egg Farmers of Canada is investigating Mercy for Animal Canada's video to make sure it is authentic, Clarke said.
It has also launched an investigation of the two Alberta farms, and has contacted a U.S. agency called the Centre of Food Integrity to recommend any potential action.
"What you see in that video is an aberration from our normal practices," said Egg Farmers of Canada CEO Tim Lambert.
"It's not acceptable to our industry and to our farmers, and if there are things on there that are authenticated as we do our investigation, they will be corrected."
The owner of Ku-Ku Farms and Creekside Grove Farms had refused an interview with W5.
Neither he nor anyone with Burnbrae Farms immediately responded to phone calls and emails from The Canadian Press.
The animal rights group is planning to hold news conferences on Monday at Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2013