TORONTO—Animal Justice is sounding alarm bells about mass “depopulations” that may be taking place at Ontario animal farms right now due to slaughterhouse capacity issues caused by the pandemic.
In two shocking viral TikTok videos posted on January 13, a user named @steelhaul shared that he was a truck driver, and was picking up 52,000 chickens who had been killed at a farm in southern Ontario. The videos and TikTok account have since been deleted, but Animal Justice has obtained recordings.
In the first video, the narrator states that the birds had been killed because of pandemic-related staffing shortages at Maple Lodge—a likely reference to the Maple Lodge Farms slaughterhouse in Brampton, Ontario which is reportedly severely understaffed due to COVID-19 infections among staff. Maple Lodge Farms slaughters around half a million birds per day and is the major slaughter centre for birds in Ontario. The video then shows dead chickens on a conveyor belt being dumped into a truck outside.
The second video is shot inside a barn, and shows workers, mostly maskless, removing hens from battery cages, placing them in wheelbarrows, then dumping them onto a waste conveyor belt which presumably takes them outside to the truck seen in the first video. It is not clear whether the workers checked each and every bird to ensure death.
Animal Justice has written to Agriculture Minister Lisa Thompson, the provincial OMAFRA agency, and Animal Welfare Services—which is responsible for enforcing provincial animal protection laws—to express concerns about the lack of government oversight of on-farm mass killings, the lack of public information about methods of killing, and the challenges of confirming that farms are adhering to provincial rules about humane euthanasia.
“These sickening mass ‘depopulations’ should not be permitted to occur without proper oversight,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Unlike at slaughterhouses, where federal humane slaughter laws apply and federal inspectors are present, there is no government oversight when animals are killed on farms—even in mass depopulations. There is significant potential for legal violations where on-farm depopulation may be taking place due to reduced slaughterhouse capacity.”
It is not clear how the hens shown in the videos were killed, but methods considered acceptable by the egg industry include gassing birds to death with carbon dioxide.
Animal Justice is offering a $1,000 reward for information about the mass hen killings depicted in the TikTok videos. Animal Justice is also offering a $5,000 reward to any whistleblowers that come forward with evidence of on-farm depopulation taking place, and the methods used in Ontario or elsewhere in Canada
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