An animal rights group is trying to draw attention to the lives of the nearly 700 million chickens that are farmed in Canada each year with a TV and Internet ad campaign that focuses on the birds' short, brutish lives.
"We don't want to be shocking," said Stephanie Brown, director of the Toronto-based Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals. "But we want to show the reality, which is really tough."
The 30-second ads are airing for the next five weeks on the CBC and CTV networks, and coincide with World Day for Farmed Animals on Friday (Oct. 2).
According to Brown, the vast majority of Canada's 26 million laying hens spend their entire year-long lives in stacked, crowded and dishwasher-sized battery cages.
"They are unable to sit or perch or do anything chickens can and should do," said Brown. "When they get pulled out for slaughter, their wings and legs often break because they've atrophied."
Conditions are equally bad–but mercifully shorter–for meat or broiler chickens, which account for 95 per cent of the 680 million chickens processed in Canada in each.
In addition to raising public awareness, Brown hopes the campaign will also make retailers think about the meats they sell. "We believe that if people see the reality, they will understand that it shouldn't and doesn't need to be this way," said Brown.
On its website the coalition asks consumers to write to Loblaw, Metro, Safeway, Sobeys, Federated Co-operatives and Overwaitea, and ask them to change the way they purchase poultry, including buying only eggs from hens kept in loose housing and delisting chicken suppliers that use fast-growing chicken breeds.