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Expert Panel Addresses Hidden Camera Investigation at Alberta Egg Farm

A panel of farm animal care specialists has examined undercover video footage from an egg farm in Alberta and says that the scenes clearly show unethical and irresponsible treatment of animals. The panel also felt it was difficult to reach conclusions based on the video footage as presented.

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) created the Animal Care Review Panel to engage recognized animal care specialists to examine hidden amera video investigations and provide expert perspectives for food retailers, the egg industry and the media. The panel was asked to examine video contained in a report on the television news magazine W5 as well as a 3-minute video segment posted on the Mercy for Animals Canada website.

The panel was comprised of Dr. Candace Croney, Purdue University; Dr. Ed Pajor, University of Calgary; and Dr. Stewart Ritchie, a British Columbia veterinarian and poultry consultant.

In the video, hens are seen being tossed and handled roughly by workers, dead birds lie in cages and on floors in various levels of decay and chicks appear to be trapped in cages or farm equipment.

“What was shown in the video is inappropriate and unacceptable,” said Croney. “Handling birds that roughly reflects a lack of cognizance that these are live, sentient animals that can feel pain. What I saw shows a real need for additional training of farm employees at the very minimum.”

The experts were especially concerned about scenes showing farm workers euthanizing chicks by striking their heads against a hard surface.

“It’s unacceptable and is not supported by any Code of Practice that I’m aware of,” said Pajor.

“I’ve never seen this type of euthanasia,” said Ritchie.

“The propensity for unnecessary pain and suffering using that method is ridiculously high,” said Croney.

Some scenes also showed hens that appeared to be unhealthy due to significant loss of feathers.

“There are many factors associated with feather loss and some of them can be associated with intensive housing like we see in this video,” said Pajor.

“But, I’ve seen this manifestation of feather loss even in non-cage systems,” added Ritchie.

While voicing concern about what the video portrayed, the group also expressed concern about what might not have been included.

“In these types of video productions they go back and forth between scenes so quickly that it’s sometimes difficult to tell what’s really going on,” said Croney. “For example, in some scenes it appeared the cages were overcrowded while in other scenes it didn’t. What is clear, though, is that the practices shown, such as chicks being improperly euthanized, left to smother in plastic bags and possibly incinerated while alive are inhumane and indefensible. ”

“I disagreed with everything I saw in the video.” said Ritchie. “But I would have liked to have seen more than the short video clips so I could more clearly understand if the scenes they chose to show truly represented the way this farm was being managed.”

General Observations

Dr. Croney

“There were significant welfare issues captured in that video. Regardless of whether this particular video fairly characterized what was really going on at this farm, there are significant ethical issues in addition to the housing of birds that the egg industry absolutely must address.”

Dr. Ritchie

“I’m a farmer myself and I’m a big believer in transparency. I think somebody needed to step forward and say, ‘what’s shown in this video is wrong and needs to be fixed.’”

“In my opinion, witnessing this type of cruelty demands prompt attention. This should have been dealt with immediately.”

Dr. Pajor

“The rough handling, method of euthanasia, and quality of cage inspection are serious animal welfare concerns in this video. I think the Canadian egg production community is working to address animal welfare issues through producer outreach and research. A whole new Code of Practice is being created that is going to be science-informed and include a public discussion period. ”

Hidden camera investigations in recent years have heightened public attention on animal care issues. In an effort to foster a more balanced conversation and to provide credible feedback to promote continuous improvement in farm animal care, CFI created the Animal Care Review Panel.

The Panel operates independently. Its reviews, assessments, recommendations and reports will not be submitted to the egg industry for review or approval. CFI’s only role is to facilitate the review process and release the panel’s findings.

 About the Experts

Dr. Candace Croney - Purdue University

Dr. Croney is a renowned expert in applied animal behavior, with an emphasis on animal learning, welfare and ethics. She is an associate professor of animal sciences at Purdue University. She has contributed to nationwide animal welfare efforts working with organizations such as the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and many others. She is on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the American Humane Certified program, and her research on farm animal cognition has been featured in national and international broadcast programs.

Dr. Ed Pajor - University of Calgary

A professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Pajor is recognized internationally for his research in the areas of poultry, swine and dairy behavior and welfare as well as expertise in animal welfare standards and legislation. Dr. Pajor has served on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Animal Science as well as Applied Animal Behavior Science and as the U.S. representative to the International Society of Applied Ethology. Dr. Pajor also provides scientific expertise to numerous organizations including the National Pork Board’s Animal Welfare Committee, and Humane Farm Animal Care. Dr. Pajor completed his B.Sc. degree in biology from the University of Waterloo and received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in biology from McGill University, specializing in animal behavior.

Dr. Stewart Ritchie - Canadian Poultry Consultants Ltd., British Columbia

Dr. Ritchie received his BSc (Agr) from the University of British Columbia, his MS from the University of Arkansas and his DVM from the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Ritchie is a Diplomate in the American College of Poultry Veterinarians. Dr. Ritchie has owned and operated Canadian Poultry Consultants Ltd. since 1989 and S. J. Ritchie Research Farms Ltd. since 1992. Dr. Ritchie is a member and has served as President of a number of professional organizations related to poultry health, nutrition and management.


The Center for Food Integrity is a not-for-profit corporation established to build consumer trust and confidence in today’s food system. Our members, who represent every segment of the food system, are committed to providing accurate information and addressing important issues among all food system stakeholders. The Center does not lobby or advocate for individual food companies or brands. For more information, visit www.foodintegrity.org.



Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 22nd, 2013 :: Filed under Activism,Animal care,Animal cruelty,eggs,Housing,Laying hens
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One Response to “Expert Panel Addresses Hidden Camera Investigation at Alberta Egg Farm”

  1. David Pederson
    November 29th, 2013

    Thank you for standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

    I appreciate this work and this article. But what are the next steps? How will this be leveraged to end this disregard for life?

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