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Caged farming investigations

Cages keep animals isolated, or tightly packed in confined areas. In the worst cases they are barren, provide minimal space and prevent even moderate exercise. Being kept in these conditions, even with excellent stockmanship, can have severe health and welfare implications for the animals involved.

We have carried out investigations into the farming of pigs, quail, laying hens, and rabbits.

Quail: Factory farming in miniature – 2015/2016

The quail’s little voices, calling out, were delicate and beautiful. The cages, on the other hand, were harsh, crude, ugly contraptions.

Investigator

EU Quail Investigation

PLEASE BE AWARE THIS VIDEO CONTAINS SCENES OF A DISTRESSING NATURE.

Investigation into the intensive farming of quail within the EU

In the winter of 2015/16, Compassion in World Farming Investigators visited multiple  quail farms in 4 European countries – Italy, France, Portugal and Greece. Three of these countries (Italy, France and Portugal) are in the top four EU quail producing countries.

This ground-breaking investigation – the first ever international expose into this species – uncovered an industry that promotes a luxury product. But our findings show it is a cruel luxury.

There is no species-specific European legislation to protect quail. The result is immense suffering. Isn’t it time to End the Cage Age for quail?

You can take action without watching by clicking here.

A caged existence:

Over 140 million quail are farmed in the EU every year. The vast majority of these are for meat, and those quail will spend their short lives on overcrowded factory farm floors or confined to cages. Aged just five weeks, they will be sent for slaughter.

Tiny black eyes watched me through the filthy bars.

Investigator

Over 90% of egg-laying quail are trapped in cages. Their lives are also pitifully short, at just five months.

Our investigators documented appalling suffering across the industry, with quail who were confined to tiny cages of bare wire suffering from feather loss and injuries such as bumblefoot, unable to express many of their natural behaviours and with no enrichment.

Factory farming in miniature

This first-of-a-kind investigation shows quail being raised in appalling environments. In one farm, a dead quail was left in the egg collecting tray, others were found decomposing on the floor.

Quail is a year round product here, seen as both luxurious and gourmet. But its roots are in factory farming. The egg producing birds live in the same squalid conditions that have become the norm across the industry.

Investigator

All factory farmed quail are kept in overcrowded conditions, and meat quail can each have a space allowance as small as a standard beer mat.

Quail beer mat.jpg

The conditions found in these farms were all similar. And they are unlikely to be confined to just these farms, or even just these countries, but will be reflective of the vast majority of quail farming across all of Europe.

Higher welfare quail farming systems do exist, such as some ‘free to fly’ systems, but the majority of Europe’s quail are confined to factory farms and the miserable living conditions that are inherent in these systems. Please consider taking action to End the Cage Age for all quail now.

Italy - the backdrop of a quail factory farm

Italy - the backdrop of a quail factory farm

Italy - the backdrop of a quail factory farm

France - meat quail with barely any space

France - meat quail with barely any space

France - meat quail with barely any space

Italy - egg production in a factory farm setting

Italy - egg production in a factory farm setting

Italy - egg production in a factory farm setting

Italy - breeding quail with bumblefoot

Italy - breeding quail with bumblefoot

Italy - breeding quail with bumblefoot

Portugal - dead quail left in the egg collecting tray

Portugal - dead quail left in the egg collecting tray

Portugal - dead quail left in the egg collecting tray

Italy - squeezed behind bars

Italy - squeezed behind bars

Italy - squeezed behind bars

Greece - beautiful eggs, terrible system

Greece - beautiful eggs, terrible system

Greece - beautiful eggs, terrible system

Portugal - quail wait before being grabbed and hung upside down on the slaughterline

Portugal - quail wait before being grabbed and hung upside down on the slaughterline

Portugal - quail wait before being grabbed and hung upside down on the slaughterline

This is factory farming in miniature, and it involves the lives of millions.

Investigator


Laying hens: It may be legal, but it's not right – 2015

It was impossible to comprehend the scale of the suffering going on under that one roof.

Investigator

Legal, But Not Right

Filming in 10 farms across France, Italy, Czech Republic and Cyprus, Compassion exposed the continued suffering faced by millions of hens who are still stuck in the Cage Age.

In 2015, Compassion in World Farming’s Investigation Unit went undercover in four EU Member States to see what the barren battery cage ban means for Europe’s laying hens.

Filming in 10 farms across France, Italy, Czech Republic and Cyprus, they exposed the continued suffering faced by millions of hens who are still stuck in the Cage Age.

The EU barren battery cage ban was an opportunity for a huge stride forwards in the welfare of Europe’s laying hens. But sadly there was a failing in the tortuous legislation process. A failing that many in the egg industry have seized upon. They have simply replaced the barren cage with the so-called ‘enriched’ version. That means almost 60% of Europe’s 500 million hens still spend their entire lives farmed in cages.

The cages seemed to go on forever. They reached all the way up into the roof of the building, looming over me, and along its entire length. There were so many hens all around me, and the sound of them all calling out was almost deafening.

Investigator

Enriched cage hens

Due to feather pecking some hens have lost a large number of feathers from around their necks and bodies.

Enriched cage hens

Enriched cage hens 2

Debeaking cuts through four layers of tissue, three of which have nerves.

Enriched cage hens 2

Enriched cage hens 3

The ceiling is so low that chickens cannot stand on perches and extend their necks fully.

Enriched cage hens 3

Enriched cage hens 4

Birds will spend their entire lives on wire mesh floors and slippery perches

Enriched cage hens 4

Enriched cage hens 6

The cages are visibly crowded

Enriched cage hens 6

Enriched cage hens 7

Aerial view of one of the larger hen farms visited

Enriched cage hens 7

Many of the farms visited may be meeting the requirements of the EU Laying Hens Directive, but in adopting the ‘enriched’ cage they are all failing to address the welfare needs of their animals.

The industry heralds these cages as making vast improvements on the banned barren battery cages. But it’s clear that for the hens a cage is still a cage.

Investigator

Everywhere our team went, they encountered many hens with their beaks severely trimmed and their bodies badly feather-pecked, particularly around the chest and neck. Often, hens appeared to be anxious and fearful of human contact – while others were too ill to move.

There was no space for them to escape the pecking. How can there be when you’re stuck between wire walls and you share the small cage with nine other animals?

Investigator

In almost every farm, the conditions inside the cages were so cramped that hens were barely able to spread their wings. In some farms the perches, which are meant to simulate a tree branch for roosting, were barely a few centimetres off the ground. In other cases, if a hen was on a perch, she could not stand upright because the roof of the cage was so low. What is more, the cages were so crowded that when a hen did manage to get onto a perch there was no possibility of normal roosting behaviour.

This system is fundamentally flawed

She told me they were suffering; not just a few but all of them – thousands of birds infested with mites. They weren’t getting any treatment. Deemed not worth spending money on as they’d soon be in a soup, paste or pet food.

Investigator

The Investigation Unit saw farms of all types: small and large, modern and ramshackle, clean and dirty. Regardless of the operation, the hens were closely confined, spent their entire lives standing on wire mesh floors or slippery perches, and never saw sunlight.

Some birds were perching. This ‘luxury’ is one of the defining factors that makes these cages legal. But the hens simply stepped up an inch or two from the floor of the cage onto the perch and spent their time being jostled by all the other hens around them.

Investigator

The ‘enriched’ cage may be within the letter of the law. But it is certainly not within the spirit of our campaign to ban the barren battery cage.


Rabbits: the biggest secret of the Cage Age – 2014

This isn’t farming, it’s ‘stamped for approval cruelty’ on an industrial scale.

-Investigator

During the summer of 2014, Compassion in World Farming’s Investigation Unit went undercover to visit 16 rabbit factory farms in 5 countries – Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Poland and Cyprus.

What they found is the unknown face of factory farming: millions of animals stuck in the Cage Age…

Undercover investigation: exposing the biggest secret of the Cage Age

Please be aware this video contains scenes of a distressing nature.

A dirty business

Our investigators documented appalling suffering, with rabbits confined in tiny cages of bare wire, causing injuries and stress, and leaving them unable to express their natural behaviours of hopping, moving freely, digging or hiding.

Their production charts show they’ve been here for 2 years –across the shed the males have been cage-bound for 4 years.

-Investigator

In many farms the cages were coated in the fur of rabbits long gone, and in some cases dead rabbits had been left to rot outside sheds in digger trucks, in the walkways between cage rows, on top of the cages or in the cages with other young rabbits.

Dead baby rabbits were left to rot on top of their cage – providing a chilling form of enrichment for the rest of its cage mates.

-Investigator

Underneath the cages, there were mounds of faeces that in some farms generated horrifically overpowering ammonia smells and made it hard to breathe. In one farm our investigator had to wade through the waste just to check on the rabbits' welfare, so long had it been since a clean out.

Some of the farms visited were heavily reliant on antibiotics to treat the animals and prevent disease spreading like wildfire through the cramped cages. One farm was spending €25,000 per year on treatment alone to keep the production line alive long enough to reach the slaughterhouse. Other farms didn’t even attempt to treat the sick and injured rabbits – and there were many falling victim to eye and fungal infections and respiratory conditions.

They produce big litter sizes but with an inherent ability to be unable to look after them all – resulting in as many as 6 baby rabbits being culled from a litter of 16.

-Investigator

An industry wide problem

There are more rabbits farmed for meat in the EU than any other species, except meat chickens, and the vast majority of those rabbits (around 99%) are shockingly kept in barren cages all their lives.

Poland

It's a short life spent looking through the bars of their cages for thousands of factory farmed rabbits in Poland.

Poland

Waste

At this factory farm in the Czech Republic you would have to wade through the waste that coated the floor to check on the rabbits.

Waste

Health issues

This rabbit had a gaping hole in its ear and an infected sore on it's head. It wasn't alone with it's injuries.

Health issues

Skin conditions

This buck has a severe skin condition in his ear, that appeared to have gone untreated.

Skin conditions

Antibiotics

This rabbit farming industry is heavily reliant on antibiotics.

Antibiotics

Escaped or trapped

One rabbit had escaped the cages, but instead was trapped on the floor of the shed without access to food or water.

Escaped or trapped

Dead rabbits

Outside the sheds of the factory farm, dead rabbits are piled up and left to rot in the trough of a digger.

Dead rabbits

For these rabbits, it’s a life encased in wire. But I shouldn’t call it a life really. It’s a three-month existence. An existence that takes away from these young animals everything that makes life worth living. 

-Investigator


Rabbits: Factory farming's best kept secret – 2012

In 2012, our team visited rabbit farms in France, Spain and Italy - where more than three quarters of all rabbit farming in the EU takes place. What they found was suffering on a huge scale. And, as our 2014 investigation into rabbit farming revealed, these terrible conditions are not limited to just these three countries.

Exposed to the elements

Exposed to the elements: Rabbits in factory farms are not protected by any species-specific EU legislation.

Exposed to the elements

Breeding

Breeding does produce a litter every 6 weeks.

Breeding

Tiny paws on wire floors

Tiny paws on wire floors: This mesh flooring causes sores and lesions.

Tiny paws on wire floors

Factory farmed rabbits get sick quick.

Factory farmed rabbits get sick quick. Up to 30% die before they reach slaughter age.

Factory farmed rabbits get sick quick.

Cages are usually barren and cramped

Cages are usually barren and cramped, preventing rabbits from carrying out their natural behaviours.

Cages are usually barren and cramped

Factory farmed rabbits on sale.

Factory farmed rabbit from across Europe ends up on sale in the UK.

Factory farmed rabbits on sale.

Appalling suffering was documented; rabbits kept in tiny, bare wire cages, unable to move freely or express their natural desires to dig or hide. Rabbit faeces were built up under the cages – piled up to knee-height in places. And there were bins – full of dead rabbits.

Watch the ground breaking footage

Please be aware this video contains scenes of a distressing nature.