Acclaimed documentary photographer exposes the cruelty behind egg production in Thailand
Photo by Andrew Skowron
International NGOs Anima International and Sinergia Animal Thailand just released a striking documentary showing the reality of egg production in Thailand. The images show hens in extreme suffering, crammed in cages so small they can barely walk or spread their wings during practically their entire lives. The documentary was shot by an internationally renowned animal protection photographer, Andrew Skowron, and his team from Anima International in partnership with the NGO Sinergia Animal.
“I have seen egg farms in many different countries, and they always shock me for being so cruel. Sadly, Thai farms are not different. What is happening is beyond any measure of humanity,” says Skowron. In Thai farms, hens endure incessant noise and don’t have access to natural light. Some farms were found to be in very dirty conditions, with piles of manure, feathers, and broken eggs on the floor, and even dead hens have been found stuck in the wires. “All over the world, people are saying no to cages. But on some farms we saw reportedly used old cages from the EU. These systems are so inhumane that they have been banned there since 2012,” says Skowron. He has been a press photographer in his home country, Poland, for 15 years and some years ago decided to dedicate his photography exclusively to documenting the reality of life for animals used for food and entertainment with the NGO Anima International. “We know kindness towards animals is a very important value in Thai society, and we hope Thailand will join the cage-free movement. Thai consumers and hens deserve better.” Why Thailand
Skowron, Anima International, and Sinergia Animal decided to produce this documentary in Thailand to give Thai consumers the power to make better-informed decisions. “We are showing these images to grant a possibility for Thai people to have a look at something that is considered ‘normal’ but maybe just isn’t,” says Wichaypat Piromsan, campaign manager of Sinergia Animal in Thailand.
The images were captured between the end of November and the first week of December 2019 in different provinces in Thailand. The country was chosen for being a leading egg producer in Southeast Asia and is responsible for farming around 60 million hens per year to produce eggs. Eggs are the cheapest animal protein source in Thailand and a part of many common national dishes, such as the Pad Krapao or even simply omelet with rice. Battery cages are one of the cruelest production systems for animals.
Egg production using battery cages is considered one of the cruelest systems in the world for animals: each hen is given a space smaller than a sheet of paper to live, and each cage can have up to 12 animals. Thus, they live practically their entire lives unable to fully open their wings, walk freely, or turn around, as well as carry out most of their natural behaviors, which are incredibly important to their welfare, such as nesting, grazing, and perching.
In caged systems, it is common for birds to have fractured bones and osteoporosis due to the lack of movement and intensive egg production, as well as feather loss due to continuous contact with the cages’ bars. “Keeping birds in these conditions is immensely cruel, especially as scientists have proven that chickens are able to feel pain, stress, and fear. Surely, they deserve more compassion than this,” added Piromsan.
Cage systems are bad for food safety as well. A study conducted by the European Food Safety Authority states that “a review of risk factors for Salmonella in laying hens revealed that overall evidence points to a lower occurrence in non‐cage compared to cage systems.”
After a dialog with Sinergia Animal, companies like Tesco Lotus, Subway, and Burger King committed to phasing out the use of eggs from battery cages in Thailand by 2025. Many other multinational companies — such as Nestlé, Unilever, Kraft Heinz, and Mondelez International — recently announced similar global policies that apply to Asia. “We have growing evidence that Asian consumers also care about animal welfare and food safety. No one wants to see their food being produced in such unnatural conditions,” said Piromsan.
About Anima International
Founded in 2018 by leaders from Poland and Denmark, Anima International connects animal advocates from these countries as well as Lithuania, Norway, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Belarus, and the United Kingdom. Anima International’s intention is to make change happen for animals as quickly and effectively as possible and accelerate the progress in countries where animal protection is neglected. In 2019 Anima International was recognized as Top Charity by Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE).