A new Animal Equality U.K. investigation reveals chicks having their necks crushed, birds suffering from burns and blisters, and chickens purposely denied water at a McDonald’s chicken supplier.
For years, Mercy For Animals has reached out to McDonald’s representatives, asking that the company ban the worst abuses for chickens in its supply chain. In 2018, Mercy For Animals joined forces with The Humane League, Animal Equality, Compassion in World Farming, World Animal Protection, and Animal Outlook to form a coalition campaign and launch a petition calling on McDonald’s to adopt a meaningful chicken welfare policy. So far, the petition has gathered over 300,000 signatures.
The footage was taken over two months in eight British chicken farms operated by Moy Park, one of Europe’s 10 largest poultry producers. Moy Park is responsible for nearly a third of all chicken sold in the United Kingdom and raises and kills over 312 million birds every year. Moy Park is endorsed by Assured Food Standard, an organization that promotes and regulates food quality in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. The organization’s Red Tractor mark is meant to assure consumers that food is “responsibly produced” and “farmed with care.” But the footage of chickens suffering at the Moy Park facilities suggests otherwise.
The video reveals young chickens forced to live in severely overcrowded conditions, with around 30,000 birds crammed into each dark shed. Birds barely have enough room to move or stretch their wings.
Because chickens raised for meat are selectively bred to grow unnaturally large, many of the chickens in the footage struggle to walk, while some cannot even stand. Others gasp for air, their hearts and lungs straining in their oversized bodies.
Conditions in the crowded sheds were abysmal, with birds sitting on urine-soaked litter for weeks on end. This caused some chickens to develop painful burns and blisters on their abdomens and feet.
One of the worst practices the investigator witnessed was the raising of water distributors higher and higher over time so smaller birds could not reach them. According to a farmworker, smaller birds are considered unprofitable by the industry, and allowing them to die from dehydration saves the company money. In the video, we see the investigator lift a small chick up to the water dispenser for a drink.
Another cruel practice that appeared to be business as usual was scooping up chickens deemed too small or weak and crushing their necks.
The birds who manage to survive these terrible conditions are sent to slaughter at just over a month old—still just babies.
In 2015, Mercy For Animals released its own investigation into a McDonald’s chicken supplier. The footage revealed birds beaten, crammed into filthy sheds, stabbed to death with nails attached to makeshift clubs, and left to suffer and slowly die.