Laying hens


When hens are at the end of their productive lives, usually around 12 months old, they are of little economic value to the farmer and seen as a by-product of the egg industry needing disposal. Hens naturally live to around 6-10 years.

Few slaughterhouses accept laying hens so they are frequently transported by road for long jdistances. Feed, but not water, may be withheld for up to 12 hours prior to slaughter (1). The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or killing) (Amendment into the 1995 Regulations) (England) Regulations 2007 permits the killing of ‘end of lay hens’ and end of life breeder hens by exposure to gas on the premises where they are housed. It also allows the Secretary of State to authorise the killing of birds by exposure to gas elsewhere than in a slaughterhouse. The culling of ‘end of lay hens’ on the home farm could dramatically reduce the incidence of welfare issues experienced during catching and transporting (1).

Hens are hung upside down shackled by their feet to a moving line whilst still fully conscious. Their heads and neck are dragged through an electrically charged water bath designed to stun the birds, rendering them unconscious. The moving line takes the birds to an automatic neck cutter. Birds are bled before entering a scalding tank to make plucking easier. Birds often experience pain and struggle while hung in shackles, and can suffer during the slaughter process. It is essential that a sufficient stunning current is used and that both carotid arteries (the major blood supplies to the brain) are cut to reduce the risk of birds regaining consciousness during bleed-out and entering the scalding tank still alive.

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The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Limited, Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham WA14 4QG
Registered Charity No. 259358, Registered Company No. 959115 (England and Wales)

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