An undercover video showing chicken abuse at a southern Maine egg farm has forced the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to launch an investigation into the horrific conditions at the facility.
An animal rights group, the Humane Society of the United States, recently released the footage covertly recorded by a whistleblower exposing the inhumane and hideous way the Turner egg production facility, owned by businessman Austin “Jack” DeCoster and operated by Pennsylvania-based Hillandale Farms, treats its chickens.
“For one month we had a whistleblower filming and found hideous animal cruelty and food safety issues,” Paul Shapiro, vice president of the HSUS, told the Bangor Daily News. “What we saw in that video is heartbreaking.”
The clip, recorded over the course of four months, shows eggs covered in blood and feces, rusted wire cages that are too small for birds to spread their wings, and piles of rotting chickens. Sometimes, the carcasses remain inside the cages with other, living birds for a long time.
Shapiro didn’t name the “hero” who secretly filmed inside the farm. But he described the disturbing footage as chickens “crammed into cages, dead birds rotting in cages with live birds actually laying eggs on the dead birds, massive piles of dead chickens, birds with their heads stuck in cages dying from dehydration inches away from water, massive amounts of rodents [and] a numerous other horrors.”
On the group’s request, authorities looked into the matter. While the investigation is currently ongoing, the department said eggs coming from the facility are safe to consume and that there are “no reports of food safety violations at the facility now or in the recent past.”
Interestingly, this is not the Hillandale Farm’s first brush with the law. In 2015, an Iowa court sentenced DeCoster to three months in jail for his role in a 2010 salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands.
“We reviewed the video, and we are investigating the practices in the barns where this footage may have been captured to ensure this is addressed immediately,” said company spokeswoman Melanie Wilt. “We have engaged our farm veterinarian, food safety and quality assurance teams to act swiftly to assure that we meet or exceed all animal health and food safety guidelines. In addition, we have reached out proactively to ask the [Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry] to conduct an immediate inspection.”
Watch the horrifying conditions at the egg facility in the video above.