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Chicken scandal at Lidl
Investigations of Lidl chicken reveal animal suffering and dangerous germs

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Products tested: 51 chicken meat products of Lidl’s store brands »Metzgerfrisch« (label »Stallhaltung Plus«)
Origin of products: eight randomly selected Lidl stores in Oldenburg (Lower Saxony), Paderborn (North Rhine-Westphalia), Bautzen and Leipzig (Saxony), Eisenach (Thuringia), Fellbach and Ostfildern (Baden-Wuerttemberg)
Dates of sampling: January and February 2023

The results

  • 71% of the samples were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant germs. The laboratory detected the enzyme ESBL in the affected samples. This enzyme renders bacteria immune to commonly prescribed antibiotics. The majority of ESBL-carrying bacteria on the samples taken at Lidl were Escherichia coli-type intestinal bacteria.
  • 25% of the samples contained enterococci. These indicate contamination with fecal matter. Once outside the intestines, enterococci can become very dangerous.
  • 18% of the samples were contaminated with Campylobacter. Infections with these intestinal bacteria can lead to fever, diarrhea or, in rare cases, neurological diseases accompanied with paralysis.
  • Salmonella was found on one sample. It can cause diarrhea and even sepsis.
  • Only 6 samples were inconspicuous.

Dangerous germs originating from farming chickens for Lidl

In sheds cramped with thousands of sick animals in a closely confined space, as is the case with the sheds of Lidls chicken suppliers, pathogens spread quickly. The substantial use of antibiotics promotes resistance to them: In cases of single disease oftentimes all animals are treated. This kills the non-resistant germs while resistant bacteria survive and multiply.
»This situation is catastrophic. Using terms like ›housing plus‹ or ›animal welfare‹is downplaying the actual conditions in animal farming. What we need are completely new approaches for breeding, husbandry and feeding«, says
Dr. Rupert Ebner, veterinarian and former vice president of the Bavarian Chamber of Veterinarians

Antibiotics resistance: The »silent pandemic«

In Germany, 45,700 people die each year with antibiotic-resistant germs and another 9,650, due to them. While it is true that resistant bacteria do not necessarily lead to diseases or even death, they do pose a major risk, for example, for immunocompromised people, senior citizens and children. Even for a person infected with resistant germs who does not become ill, routine treatments and operations may become more complicated.
»The point is also that a typical urinary tract infection makes it necessary for an otherwise healthy little girl to stay in hospital for several days because oral antibiotics are no longer effective«, says
Dr. Imke Lührs, specialist in internal medicine, former expert for the German Bundestag and board member of Doctors Against Factory Farming

Resistant germs: dangerous for us all

Antibiotic-resistant germs can be spread on chicken meat. Although heating kills the germs, extreme caution is still required during preparation.
Dr. Imke Lührs goes on to say, »I like to compare the hygiene required in the kitchen with working in surgery. There, concentration and absolute care are required, which I don't think can be maintained in everyday life.«

Place of recording: Steiermark, Austria
Date of recording: Summer of 2022
Farms belong to: Johann Titz GmbH

Animal welfare grievances revealed:

Chicken run over by tractor: The footage shows chickens being run over by a tractor during loading. The run-over animals flap their wings wildly. They must have been in unbelievable pain and were apparently left to die from their injuries.

Overbreeding: Despite higher "animal welfare" standards in Austria, the chickens used suffer from their genetically encoded explosive growth. In the pictures you can see how massive the young chicks are. A few days later, many chickens are sitting on the floor with their legs splayed and partly dislocated. The unnatural growth of their chests and legs strains and damages their bodies, especially their bones and joints. Many animals struggle to get up on their own.

High stocking density, unstructured barns: Despite somewhat lower stocking densities in Austria, footage shows chicken being crowded. They are unable to retreat or to meaningfully engage in pecking, perching or dustbathing. Thousands of them are forced to live next to each other in a single barn.
Sick and dying animals: In the Austrian barn, as in barns in Germany, Spain and Italy, suffering animals were found lying on their sides, bellies or backs in need of help. The numerous chicken corpses show that many of them are not helped and instead die unnoticed in the barn.

Place of recording: Lombardy, Italy
Date of recording: Summer of 2022
Farms belong to: AIA - Agricola Italiana Alimentare S.p.A. (Gruppo Veronesi)

Animal welfare grievances revealed:

Rough handling of chicks: The sheer mass of the animals and the conditions of factory farming easily make people forget that each chicken is an individual capable of suffering. In the video, workers can be seen hurling chicks just a few days old out of transport crates, sometimes onto other chicks already on the ground. Another worker appears to toss a chick several feet through the air. One chick became apparently trapped under a drinking trough and died there.

Killing in violation of animal welfare laws:The footage shows workers killing sick and injured chickens in a brutal and ineffective manner. Several times, chickens are seen being held by the head and tossed around to break their necks. A worker pushes a chick against the holding bars of the drinking trough to kill it. Another worker hits a chicken lying on the ground with a pole. The workers observed here do not check whether the animals are actually dead. It can be assumed that, with these illegal methods, they are not always dead immediately, meaning that some chickens have to suffer for some time before they finally die.

Sick and dying animals:Many chickens suffer visibly: lying on their sides, breathing heavily, and behaving apathetically, among other things. The footage of chickens twisting their heads unnaturally is particularly disturbing. Many chickens have feces smeared around the cloaca, an indication of diarrhea. No veterinary care is provided, at all. Sick and injured animals are »emergency killed« as described above, or die in agony if left undetected. Unless helped in time, supine animals unable to get back on their feet also starve to death. The footage reveals several animals that had died undetected. An average loss of 5% is factored into the farmers’ calculations.sind in der Hühnermast fest eingeplant.
Overbreeding: Chickens raised for meat are bred for massive growth which their bones and organs can no longer keep up with. Particularly, their thigh and breast muscles are extremely enlarged (»chicken drumsticks« and »chicken breasts«). The video shows animals moving about clumsily. Some of them have their legs stretched forward or to the side and are apparently unable to get up. Among other things, this may be due to leg and back deformities.
High stocking densities in barren sheds: Again, it is obvious that the chickens have to spend their short lives packed by the thousands and closely confined with no possibility to retreat and suffering from boredom. This way, they can hardly perform their natural behavior.

Place of recording: Villamanrique de la Condesa, Spanien
Farm operator: Grupo Sada und Pavo y Derivados (Padesa)

Animal abuses revealed:

Careless handling of chicks: After arrival, the chicks are literally thrown out of the transport crates. They might be injured in the process.

Illegal killing methods: Employees repeatedly slam sick or injured chicks against a bucket in order to kill them. The investigators also documented that in one bucket, a chick that was still alive was sitting on top of a pile of dead birds that had apparently survived this treatment. It can be assumed that some chicks suffer severely injured for some time before they finally die.

Kicking, throwing, beating: While loading the chicks on the trucks to the slaughterhouse, the workers throw the chickens, kick them around like footballs and stuff them into transport cages. One scene shows a worker hitting a chicken. This handling causes unnecessary pain and suffering to the animals and is thus a clear violation of European animal welfare law.

Sick and dying animals: The footage shows various sick animals, including with beak injuries. Due to overbreeding, poor housing conditions and brutal handling, the chickens suffer from diseases and injuries that are not treated by veterinarians. The farms calculate that about 5 % of the animals die before slaughter. This is also indicated by the many dead animals in the recordings. One worker says that a dog chained outside next to the barn gets two to three dead chickens to eat every day.

Overbreeding: The photos show broilers with splayed legs that move awkwardly. The reason for this is that these chickens have been bred for fast growth, ignoring welfare problems. Especially the thigh and breast muscles are extremely enlarged ("chicken thighs" and "chicken breast"). This leads to diseases and injuries.

High stocking densities in barren sheds: The sheds are crammed with chickens. The animals are not able to retreat and have barely any material to perch or pick. Performing their natural behaviors is hardly possible.

Place of recording: Lower Saxony, Germany
Date of recording: Summer of 2022
Can be found in the following products: Fresh chicken for Lidl’s German store brands »Metzgerfrisch« and »Grillmeister«

Animal welfare grievances revealed:

Overbreeding: The footage shows mainly one month old broiler chickens. They can hardly move anymore. Some animals are no longer able to get up from lying on their backs; others are lying on their bellies or sides. The animals grow so fast that they are also called Frankenchickens. Their thigh and breast muscles grow unnaturally large to produce bigger »chicken drumsticks« and »chicken breasts«. As a result, their bones and organs can hardly support the enormous weight. Many suffer from pain and deformed bones. Some even die of cardiac failure.

High stocking densities in barren sheds: The footage mostly shows the sheds a few days before slaughter, the floor completely covered with chickens. The animals have no possibility to retreat. Under natural circumstances, chickens spend half the day moving around in little groups searching for food. Packed by the thousands in sheds like this, they suffer from permanent stress and agonizing boredom.

For improved conditions to have an effect, the breeds need to be checked for good welfare. Otherwise, the heavy chickens⁠—some of whom suffer from extreme physical impairment—cannot make use of any additional space or pecking material.
Sick and dying animals: The footage shows several chickens with twisted necks, while others are not able to stand on their legs, lie dying on the floor or suffer from diarrhea or diseases of the cloaca. Overbreeding, high stocking densities, being forced to constantly lie in their own excrement and permanent stress make these chickens especially prone to disease. But the animals are usually denied individual veterinary care. As a result, an average of 5% of the animals die excruciating deaths or are killed even before reaching slaughter age. These deaths are factored into the farmers’ calculations.
Rough handling: The footage shows workers picking up dead chickens in the shed. When doing so, they also pick up sick and injured animals, who flap their wings in panic. Some of them are stunned or killed right there in the sheds by the workers, who break their necks or strike them; others are carried from the shed while still thrashing around. At least one chicken is still moving after having been thrown onto a wheelbarrow full of dead chickens. Also, a worker can be seen urinating in the shed.

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