Live Chickens Burned at Egg Farm
Bones of burned birds - picture taken at a battery cage in Japan 2016
It was revealed that birds were burned alive at a chicken farm with 7 million birds that used battery cages.In April of 2016, Animal Rights Center reported that birds were burned alive at several chicken farms. Some farms have facilities called “dead bird incinerators,” which can burn 50 to 60 birds a day.
In those places, they usually burn dead birds found in cages, but they sometimes kill deformed birds with bend necks, broken legs, as well as birds who are unable to produce eggs very much. In such cases, it was understood that these birds had been killed in an appropriate way, such as with the use of euthanasia before being placed in the incinerator. It was hardly believable when we learned that this is not the case.
However, the story given by a whistleblower was trustworthy so we proceeded with investigations on some farms.
On the 20th of September 2016, we witnessed that a live chicken was thrown into an incinerator at one chicken farm owned by a large poultry raising company that provides egg produce hens (referred as chicken farm A *1). We reported this to the police around 7:00 pm on the same day.
At the point when the live chicken was thrown into the incinerator, the fire was not lit. We presumed that they would incinerate it next day since they did not lite the fire even in the evening.
Upon our report, prefecture police went to the site, called the president of the farm, and opened the incinerator door in his presence. We confirmed one live chicken around the entrance.
However, the entrance of the incinerator was so small that we were not able to see through to the back end. It was only about 20 cm square, and plastic bottles and food waste were also thrown in along with the birds. We would not have known there were still live chickens unless the waste had been removed. By all rights, all the items inside should have been removed to confirm there were any other live birds, and yet, it was not done since the president insisted about “prevention of spreading diseases”.
We suspect there were other live birds considering the size of chicken farm A. We had witnessed workers pushing plastic bottles and waste with a lot of force which led us to believe the incinerator must be crammed. Though, we saw only one live chicken around the entrance, we had no idea what its back end looked like and we did not hear the birds either. Chickens usually calm down and don’t make any sounds as night falls.
Prefecture police wished to avoid any trouble so we were not allowed to be present, though we were close to the site. We were not able to meet the president of chicken farm A and weren’t able to see the incinerator since it was located in the property of chicken farm A.
We couldn’t leave the situation knowing there was at least one bird alive inside the incinerator. The bird was there with no water or food, waiting to be brutally burned alive. We insisted that the bird be given to us, or be euthanized immediately.
The president refused and stated he had no intention of doing any of the things suggested. Later, it was verified the president understood there was no problem killing chickens by burning them alive, according to the police.
Prefecture police attempted to persuade him for long hours, but the president kept refusing, and drove off by leaving the bird in the incinerator. Police came to tell us they have no authority to do more since the incinerator is on chicken farm A’s property.
However, we knew there was a live chicken inside the incinerator, who would be burned to death the next morning. Not only does it violate “common sense,” it also should violate the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals. Even if police told us there was nothing further they could do, we needed to be sure so we asked for advice from a lawyer.
According to the lawyer, there are “priori” and “posteriori” in crimes. In the case of “priori”, we can only rely on police for [them to stop the crime from happening by resorting to force](*2). That is, it’s up the police to judge whether or not to resort to force. If they decide not to, the only option we have left is “posteriori”, which is to issue a charge against Article 44 of Act on Welfare and Management of Animals.
We repeatedly requested the prefecture police to resort to force, but they kept saying that there was nothing further they could do and an investigation (*3) must be done to judge if this method of killing would be appropriate. Furthermore, our demand to see the president of chicken farm A in person was declined. Since this case was dealing with birds, and more specifically chickens, which are considered to be ranked lower socially, this was all the police could do.
We left after the police departed knowing that the bird would be burned alive in the incinerator.
Chicken farm A was built in 1949, but we don’t know how long birds have been (and how many) killed by being burning alive in the incinerator. Given the fact the farm understands there is no problem killing birds in such a way, this practice may be routine.
It’s beyond belief to burn animals alive as part of human’s economic activity, but considering the ordinary state where birds are confined in battery cages in Japan, this situation may not be so unbelievable after all.
However, there are laws and standards in Japan.
It is a crime to burn birds aliveAct on Welfare and Management of Animals (excerpt)
In the case where an animal must be destroyed, a method that minimizes as much as possible the pain and distress to the animal shall be used.
A person who has destroyed or injured, without reason, a protected animal shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than one year or a fine of not more than one million yen.
There is no legitimacy in using the method to burn animals alive to kill, hence, it is a crime.
There is also a notice by Ministry of the Environment.
Guidelines on methods to kill animals (excerpt)
Method to kill “slaughter animals” shall be by chemical or physical to minimalize the pain for the said animal by losing conscious, ceasing cardio or lung functions inversely or by the method socially accepted.
It is hard to believe burning animals alive is a method socially accepted.
It is not legally binding, but there are guidelines for farm animals by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Animal Welfare and Egg laying hens production system (excerpt)
5. Measure in case of accidents and diseases
It is most important to prevent injuries and diseases on a daily basis. However, treatment shall be immediately given as much as possible when such incidents occur. When recovery is not expected even after the treatment, such birds and birds with growth defects or remarkable weak birds shall be considered to be given mercy killing by appropriate methods.
There is Appendix (1) attached to this guideline:
3. Disposal of Slaughter Animals
6. Industry Animals
(3) Method of disposal for animals that are not intended for production of meat
In case of disease, when treatment has failed or recovery is unlikely, or the animal cannot be kept for any reason, animals should be humanely killed in light of giving minimum pain. The methods include euthanasia, cervical dislocation, and beheading.
*1 Chicken farm A is a farm to raise egg laying chicks until they become 120 days old. Then, the birds are sent to egg laying chicken farms, which utilize battery cages. This egg production company has farms across 5 prefectures.
*2 The Police Duties Execution Act (Prevention and Suppression of Crime)
A police official may, when he or she notices that a crime is about to occur, give necessary warning to the persons concerned in order to prevent such occurrence, and may restrain the actions of such persons in the event that such actions may endanger the lives or bodies of persons or cause serious damage to property and if the matter is urgent.
*3 “Investigation” occurs after the incident
Department of Animal WelfareOn September 21st (next morning), we requested the Animal Center in charge to instruct chicken farm A.
We gave information to the Animal Center about what had happened. They and the Livestock Hygiene Service Center visited chicken farm A on September 30th.
Despite the inspection of the scene by police as well as the pictures taken, chicken farm A denied that they burn their birds alive. We already had told the Animal Center there had been a police inspection on site, so we asked the Animal Center if they pointed out to chicken farm A that it would be inaccurate. The Animal Center said that they did not do so because they did not witness that birds were burned alive.
Nonetheless, the Animal Center delivered the message that burning birds alive is considered to be “abuse”.
Livestock Hygiene Service CenterOn October 4th, we requested the Livestock Hygiene Service Center to hand in “Animal welfare and Egg Laying Hen Production Systems” to chicken farm A.
Livestock Hygiene Service Centers are heavily involved in agricultural farming. We requested this in order for chicken farm A to understand burning birds alive is not acceptable, but the Livestock Hygiene Service Center responded that this is merely a guideline, thus, it is not law-binding. Plus, animal welfare is not their business since the service they provide is “Livestock Hygiene”. That is, it is not their job to give guidelines or instruct chicken farm A to treat animals humanely.
However, this is not entirely accurate. This guideline by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries has been passed on to each agriculture department in the local authority. The Animal Hygiene Service Centers are part of the local authority. If they would like to promote animal welfare, they are in a position to do so. In other words, it is up to them if animal welfare is to be a part of their job or not.
Agriculture Department in Local AuthorityOn October 4th, we also called the local Agriculture Department to ask if they notify farmers of this guideline. They said it is a job that should be done by producer associations such as a poultry organization, and their job and the Livestock Hygiene Service Centers’ are to support such groups.
This means, neither the Livestock Hygiene Service Center nor the local Agriculture Department are willing to foster animal welfare in spite the fact they are the ones in charge.
PoliceOn October 7th, we spoke to the police to tell them we were considering accusing chicken farm A if they did not show any will to stop killing in such a way.
On November 2nd, we were told that a police officer in charge and the section manager visited chicken farm A. They stated they were sorry to have delayed the response since they had been researching the related law and regulations. Police’s response was as follows.
The president, the management, and workers from chicken farm A were present. Police notified chicken farm A that the situation is not like it used to be. As a company handling birds, chicken farm A must be conscious of animal welfare. Chicken farm A answered that there were about 4 workers who throw birds into the incinerator, we emphasized that they must kill the birds first before putting them into the incinerator. Chicken farm A also confessed that the truck drivers, who deliver birds, did not want to kill the birds so they would sometime just throw them alive in the incinerator. Chicken farm A told the person in charge to make sure to kill the birds the driver did not do so by separating the container for these birds, then put them in the incinerator.
Even if chicken farm A stopped burning their birds alive, the problem isn’t over.
There is no manual about what sort of methods should be applied in farms. There is no humane procedure prevalent, either. It is totally up to each farmer to decide how they kill their animals.
As little as we know so far, they kill animals by
1) suffocating them in plastic bags,
2) smashing animals onto the floor,
3) drowning by cramming several birds into a cage and then submerging it in water, and
4) neglecting them by not seeking treatment by a vet.
It is not only the responsibility held by chicken farmers
Only blaming the chicken farmers would not solve the problem.
Consumers should be aware that it is also themselves, who continue to purchase cheap products, which ultimately makes chicken farmers act so brutally by ignoring animal welfare.
Also, the government and legislation that promote agriculture should be responsible for such violent acts. We need to have a legal framework.
We, NPOs, must continue the effort to mitigate the agony for farmed animals.
We cannot stop this violence unless we, society as a whole, act on this issue seriously.
Bones of burned birds - picture taken at a battery cage in Japan 2016
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