Last week, Gray Ridge Egg Farms near Listowel, which has been described as one of Canada’s largest egg producers, was the target of a private investigation by the animal rights group Mercy For Animals.
A video reportedly captured by a private investigator hired by Mercy For Animals was posted online, accompanied by a press release from the group.
The press release, which had a Toronto by-line and was dated July 21, describes the video as “disturbing undercover footage… exposing sickening animal abuse at a massive Gray Ridge egg factory farm in Ontario,” that shows “thousands of birds packed into filthy wire cages, hardly able to move without crawling over other birds.”
“Severely sick and injured birds are left to suffer and slowly die without proper veterinary care, and the bodies of dead animals are seen rotting in cages with live birds still laying eggs for human consumption,” it continues.
The end of the video displays the messages “Leave eggs off your plate” and encourages viewers to “take action at HenHell.ca.”
In a press release of their own, Grey Ridge executive vice president Mike Walsh said he was “disappointed in the practices depicted in the video,” adding that “what is shown is inconsistent with [their] high standards for animal care.”
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Walsh said, “we are really struggling to recognize that as our barn.”
All Gray Ridge employees receive training to provide good care for hens as part of their Animal Care Policy, he said. “Our track record through external animal care audits is strong.”
According to Walsh, battery cages such as the ones shown in the video are a common industry practice, however no new ones are being built at Gray Ridge. The cages are banned in the European Union, Switzerland, and several U.S. states because of the negative impact on the animals’ welfare. Around 90 percent of Canadian egg-laying hens live in battery cages.
A representative from the Egg Farmers of Ontario said Gray Ridge was inspected and passed an audit in late spring 2016, noting that the conditions portrayed in the video were not evident during their inspection. He also said it was difficult to judge the authenticity of such videos.
Egg Farmers of Canada has pledged to end the use of battery cages by 2036, while major grocery chains including Loblaws, Sobeys, and Metro have committed to sell only cage-free eggs in their stores by 2025.