Stiffs. That's how workers at the chicken farm in Wioska, Greater Poland province, call dead birds. They collect hundreds of them every day. Some hens rot for weeks before someone picks them up. And there are around one million of egg-producing chickens at this farm alone.
See the reality of factory farming in our documentary - with English subtitles [WARNING - video contains graphic content]:
The farm in Wioska belongs to the company Wozniak Poultry Farms, which is the one of the biggest producers of table eggs in Europe. Billions of eggs from their chicken sheds are shipped every year to dozens of countries including Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Israel, Singapore, and several African nations.
The documentary by Dominik Szczepanski, Patryk Strzalkowski and Patryk Larwinski is based on the investigation carried out at Wioska farm by Oxana Osadchuk and Aleksandr Askirka.
Working with Open Cages Association, an animal rights NGO, they got employed at the farm and worked there for six weeks. In that time, they took hundreds of recordings and photos. The shocking footage shows chickens dying with their eggs still half inside them, dried carcasses, injured birds without feathers that no one helps, acts of bird cannibalism, filth and bugs, including fleas, which also attacked the farm's employees.
The investigation revealed a number of problems in both cages and sheds. What I find most shocking is how widespread they are. The sight of piles of dead hens being 'normal' every day
- says Bogna Wiltowska, director of investigations in Open Cages. The recordings and employees' accounts show that there was no veterinary assistance at the farm. - The veterinarian was a mythical figure. I asked around, but no one had heard of him - says Oxana Osadchuk.
The film "Stiffs" also tells the story of how poorly-paid foreign workers, primarily Ukrainians, are treated.
A complaint to the prosecutor’s office
In the week leading up to publication, we sent a list of questions and a description of the situations recorded at the farm. In response, a company representative wrote that the information "deeply shocked them". However, she did not address any specific questions and only informed us that - as they have to "analyse and audit" them - the company needed "about 3 weeks" to respond.
Open Cages has decided to file a complaint to the prosecutor's office. - We expect an investigation to be launched, to see whether the conditions at the farm amount to animal abuse - says Wiltowska. The prosecutor's office for Greater Poland province has confirmed that the complaint has been filed and content is now being verified.
The fate of cage farming, not just for hens, but for all animals in the EU, could see a turning point this year. After the citizens' initiative "End the Cage Age" received the support of more than 1,4 million citizens across the EU, the European Commission has pledged to prepare a proposal for relevant legislation.