Egg Farmers of Ontario has quietly changed its website after shocking footage released on TikTok showed a trucker hauling away 52,000 hens, who were killed off en masse on an Ontario egg farm. These hens were victims of on-farm “depopulation”—where entire barns full of animals are killed at once and simply disposed of.
In the video, the trucker said that the mass cull was due to pandemic-related capacity issues at the Maple Lodge Farms slaughterhouse in Brampton, Ontario. Maple Lodge Farms kills around half a million birds per day, but has recently been hit with worker illness and labour shortages. Maple Lodge Farms is one of only a few slaughterhouses that kills “spent” hens—birds whose bodies have given out after a year or two of laying eggs inside tiny wire battery cages. When hens start to lay fewer eggs and are no longer profitable for the farmer, they are typically trucked to slaughter, and destined to become low-grade meat products like chicken fingers. They are replaced by new, younger hens who are destined to repeat this brutal cycle.
But the industry-group Egg Farmers of Ontario now says that the mass killing shared on TikTok wasn’t related to COVID-19, but claims instead that it is a standard, routine practice in the egg industry to kill off birds on farms, and that their bodies would be composted and turned into fertilizer.
But until recently, the Egg Farmers of Ontario’s “Animal Care Program” page on its website made no mention of killing birds on the farm instead of sending them to slaughter, and there has been no information shared about how the birds were killed. Unlike slaughterhouses, where inspectors are present and humane slaughter laws apply, farms are generally unequipped to exterminate a large number of hens. The egg industry refused to share any information about how these hens were actually killed, any many have speculated that they may have been gassed to death on farm without any government oversight.
An archived version of the Egg Farmers of Ontario website from November 10, 2021 doesn’t even mention on-farm killings. But the website was subsequently updated, and now admits that birds can be killed and disposed of after only about a year of laying eggs, when their productivity declines, or else are sent for slaughter or to become pet food. The Egg Farmers also claims that birds are killed off in accordance with “government regulations”, yet there are no regulations requiring humane euthanasia of animals on farms.
Canada has some of the worst animal protection laws in the western world. There are no federal or provincial laws governing the treatment of animals on farms, and no proactive government inspections.
The egg, meat and dairy industries are almost entirely self-regulated. When questioned about whether farming in Canada is humane, industry representatives are often quick to point to the National Farm Animal Farm Council (NFACC) codes of practice for farmed animals.
But these volunteer-based recommendations for farmed animal care are not legally-enforceable, plus many standard practices laid out in the code condone horrific cruelty.
Most hens are born in cruel hatcheries where the male chicks are ground up a live because they can’t lay eggs. On farms, hens experience suffering for the entirety of their shortened lives. Most eggs in Canada come from hens who were confined in tiny wire battery cages in who are stacked on top of each other in filthy factory farms. These hens are locked up by the thousands and don’t even have enough room to spread their wings.
In nature, hens lay about 12 eggs a year, but in the egg industry, they’ve been genetically manipulated to lay an egg nearly every single day—which puts enormous strain on their bodies and can lead to a multitude of health issues, including prolapses and having their oviducts blocked by eggs that get stuck inside of them. Hens on farms rarely receive any veterinary care, and often die from health complications and diseases.
In 2016, Mercy For Animals released a shocking undercover exposé captured at Grey Ridge Egg Farms in Ontario, showing hens packed tightly together in battery cages with dead hens left to rot. Hens were also suffering with bleeding prolapses and faced extreme feather loss from their intensive confinement.
Animal Justice will continue to monitor the mass killings of animals on farms in Canada, and push for stronger laws for farmed animals. Anyone with inside information about mass depopulation of animals on farms is encouraged to email our legal team at [email protected].