The cruel truth about the Spanish turkey farms

AnimaNaturalis reveals an undercover investigation that took place between 2021 and 2022, exposing the detrimental conditions turkeys must endure in Spanish factory farms.

21 diciembre 2022
Madrid, España.

AnimaNaturalis reveals an undercover investigation that took place between 2021 and 2022, exposing the detrimental conditions turkeys must endure in Spanish factory farms.

Having clandestinely accessed several turkey farms we confirm that, once again, welfare standards mandated by law are only applied for the benefit of the production, and therefore, we see a detrimental hedge of animals’ basic needs and their health.

Turkey’s suffering

“During the investigation, we documented dying animals with bone malformation and difficulty standing up as well as walking. Others were carrying severe wounds, most likely caused by their partners, with whom they are obligated to compete for available space as they grow, explains Belén González, head of investigations at AnimaNaturalis.

“In all visited farms, we have found turkeys living among corpses. This is common at any stage of “production”, during the first days of life of the chicks up until their last weeks before slaughter. Their entire existence is a living hell”,  she adds.

While a turkey in the wild can live up to 15 years, their life expectancy in these farms is reduced to 16 weeks in the case of the males, and 13 for the females. When they reach the market weight of 15 and 10 kilos respectively, they are sent to the slaughterhouse.

In 2019 alone, 30.735 turkeys were slaughtered in Spain, though that number doesn’t include the animals that die on farms due to the harsh conditions during their exploitation.

The lack of hygiene in such installations also contributes to the proliferation of diseases. Turkeys spend all their lives in the same space, called a bed, which accumulates all the feces and humidity. The constant contact with the bed exposes turkeys to cutaneous infections such as plantar dermatosis and skin tears.

Another problem is the high ammonia concentration, as well as the accumulation of viruses, germs, and fungi, all of which cause respiratory infections. Some of the most common symptoms of such diseases are severe coughing, sneezing, eye and nasal discharges, edema, pneumonia, and joint disorders such as arthritis and tendinitis.

“AnimaNaturalis’ research team has been able to verify these conditions and has suffered first-hand the breathing difficulties and the intense odor inside the modules, even having to use masks and protective equipment”, says González.

When turkeys and other animals get sick on the farm, it is common that, for reasons of profitability, they do not receive veterinary attention. The most productive thing for the farmer is to deprive the animal of treatment and let them die slowly.

As for the slaughter, turkeys and other birds are submerged in electrified water for between 8 and 12 seconds. Then they proceed to cut their throats so that they bleed to death. Although the CEE regulation 1099/2009 indicates that “animals will not show any signs of consciousness or sensitivity in the period between the end of the stunning process and death”, this is difficult to monitor.

Given the number of birds processed each day in slaughterhouses and the speed at which they are executed, there is an unavoidable percentage of animals that still show signs of consciousness during slaughter, resulting in a painful and anguishing death.

Consumption of turkey in Spain

In 2020 the number of turkeys in Spain was recorded at 13.7 million. This is 200% more than in 2008, according to the Ministry of Agriculture’s turkey meat sector report.

In January of this year, there were 1,880 turkey farms throughout the territory, which is 154% more than in 2007. This significant increase in demand is driven, in large, by the industry propaganda which tries to associate turkey meat with healthy food, since it contains less fat than chicken.

The most common breed in intensive farms is the giant white turkey. This animal is the result of years of genetic selection to increase the muscle mass of its breasts and thighs. Thus, managing to make production much more profitable.

Even the color of its plumage has been completely modified for commercial purposes. The white feathers do not leave marks on the turkeys’ skin when plucked, which makes the “product” less attractive to consumers.

However, raising turkeys for consumption does not have a long tradition in Spain. It began in the 70s when its meat became more popular in other European countries. Data up to 1985 shows an average consumption of 0.5 kg per year per inhabitant. At that time, turkeys were marketed live or whole and were mainly used for Christmas meals.

Of the total 237,337 tons of turkey meat obtained in 2019 -double that only 5 years ago- almost 30% were destined for national consumption, with an average of 4.99 kg per inhabitant.

There is no European animal welfare regulation that applies directly to turkeys, which is why they are one of the most unprotected species, whose inherent needs are not considered during their exploitation.

Revealing this investigation and the harsh images it contains, we at AnimaNaturalis are calling on consumers to consider reducing or avoiding the consumption of animals altogether during the holidays. The work of organizations, activists, and researchers is essential so that the suffering of millions of animals destined for consumption does not go unheard and resonates within society. Only with the support of people like you can we continue to give animals a voice until we achieve the systemic change they deserve.

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