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25 April 2008

Nathan Runkle
Mercy For Animals
PO Box 363
Columbus OH 43216

Mr. Runkle:

You have asked me in my capacity as a professor and veterinarian to review video footage taken at a chicken egg production facility. For identification purposes, I am Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California. I have over 35 years of experience, much of it involving farmed animals including chickens.

There were several sections of the video footage depicting specific issues. In the section on killing of the birds, the worker(s) depicted did not use a method that would kill the birds in a humane manner as approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association or veterinarians in general. Although it was difficult to discern exactly what was happening in the first instance, when the worker dropped the bird to the floor, she was still moving and continued to move for far longer than would be considered reflex and insensate movement. Rather than finishing the job, the worker instead kicked the still struggling bird under the bank of cages.

In the second instance, the worker twirled the body of the bird by the head, something that is unapproved and would be unlikely to kill quickly. The worker then threw the bird into a corner and walked off. The bird was still alive and continued to live for at least two more minutes according to the tape.

Another section of film showed workers putting young hens into the battery cages. The handling method was extremely violent: the workers roughly pushed the birds through the small openings, with no apparent regard for causing injuries. Wings, necks and legs impeded the process, but the workers just pushed harder, almost certainly causing blunt trauma at the very least and possibly fracturing bones in the more severe cases.

In the section where “spent” hens were removed from the cages, the same brutal handling was evident. Birds were pulled through the openings by whatever body part the worker managed to grasp, with no apparent regard for injury to wings, legs or necks when those parts impeded removal. The birds were thrown, with force, into the disposal bins from a distance. It is likely that they sustained further injury as a result.

Footage of the battery cages showed extreme crowding so that the birds could not lie down or walk, spread their wings or rest without all the rest of the birds moving aside (not that that would happen). This demonstrated that cage size was insufficient for normal postural adjustments. The cages had wire floors, something that is known to cause injury to the hens’ feet. Because there were tiers of cages, hens below each row of cages would be subjected to waste material from the hens above. Some of the hens had badly damaged feathers, probably a consequence of the extreme crowding and lack of opportunity to properly maintain their plumage.

Sick hens were shown with a variety of conditions including cloacal prolapse and other injuries. These birds should have been removed and either treated or killed humanely in order to mitigate the suffering they would experience. Because some of the conditions depicted were long-standing, it suggested that this was not being done.

Crippled hens were shown lying in the aisles of the facility. These hens had no access to water or food. If they were being left there for more than a few hours, this would result in further suffering for them. They should have either been killed immediately or removed to a location where they could get proper care.

There is no question that the manner in which the chickens were treated was cruel by any normal definition of the word and resulted in suffering for the birds. The treatment of the hens violated norms of conduct with respect to animal welfare and veterinary care. None of this was necessary in order to pursue the purpose of the facility. As such, it seems to me that this would constitute a violation of applicable animal cruelty laws.

Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine

PO Box 25
Dilley, Texas 78017-0025 U.S.A.

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