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In 2016 all spent-laying hens on big farms in The Netherlands (and the rest of the world) were still being grabbed roughly by their legs, left hanging upside down, and stuffed together with 3 or 4 others at a time into transport crates to head for slaughter. This way of catching and loading hens is primitive and cruel but common and no alternative was in place, not even for organic labelled eggs. Now, just 3 short years later, we have successfully started a change in the system. Working closely with Rondeel, Kipster and the Beter Leven label system for 3 stars, we now have these companies switched over to the Swedish method of catching. Despite many people being skeptical, and our efforts even ridiculed at the beginning for being too radical, we stuck to it and made The Netherlands a pioneer in getting rid of this long tradition of cruel handling. And we are proud of this !   
In the Swedish method birds are not grabbed or hung upside down by their legs, but rather held upright and supported under their breast, with maximum 2 birds carried at one time. It makes a world of difference.
January 6 2019, the laying hens of the Kipster company were due to be caught and sent for slaughter. Kipster is called “the most humane, environment and animal-friendly laying hen farm in the world”; and thus the way of catching could not be neglected! 11,000 hens were caught on this night by the chicken catchers from the company Den Ouden, a catching company that Eyes on Animals trained in the Swedish system in 2018. All of us from Eyes on Animals NL were also present, to help with the catching and make sure things ran correctly. Ruud, the director of the farm, also helped with the catching. He confirmed at the end of the evening that the Swedish method was much more respectful towards the hens. 

Read Kipsters' report in Foodlog here.
Read an article in the Dutch Newspaper De Limburger here.
The lucky ones
After 18 months of intensive egg laying, hens are sent for slaughter as the shells of the eggs they lay start to become too soft to market. As long as there are consumers of eggs, we cannot change their fate. But we did manage to rescue a few individuals. Read their stories below.
Monique and Kipster

There are always some hens that are impossible to catch - they are too smart and fast. Monique (named after my colleague) was such a hen. At the end of our night of catching, I was walking alone through the empty poultry stall.  I was feeling rather down, knowing that all the hens I just helped catch were going to be slaughtered in a few hours’ time. I thought to myself, if I find one hen still in the barn now, I will take her home. I was disappointed not hearing or seeing anything. But then suddenly, out of nowhere, there she was. A little fighter, totally alone. She was running through the large empty barn at the speed of light, determined not to be caught. When I finally managed to get her, she defended herself by pecking aggressively at my fingers…but not much later I felt her trembling in my hands. She was so scared. Together with the help of farmer Styn we prepared a nice box to place her in. But of course I could not take her home alone, Monique needed a friend. Styn allowed me to choose another hen from a different barn not yet emptied out. But how do you chose one? I didn’t have to think for too long when a small and quite featherless hen, ran behind my foot. Monique and Kipster are now enjoying life at a lovely place near Amsterdam, thanks to the help of the Dutch organization “Red en legkip”  (Rescue a laying-hen).     

Madelaine Looije, Inspector Eyes on Animals
Emmy en Pinkel

My friend Trudi has adopted spent hens before, and recently one of hers passed away. Now there was room for a new one. Best would be a hen in a poor state, so that she could be spoiled and thoroughly enjoy a second chance at life.  That was easy to find – in one of the empty poultry crates on the truck that came to load all the white hens from Kipster, we found a single, lonely brown hen. She came from a different farm and had been overlooked at the slaughterhouse which meant that she had been left trapped alone in the crate for 3 days already, without food or water. I don’t want to even imagine what it was like for her when all the empty crates were put through the automatic washing machines at the slaughterhouse… But despite this traumatic experience, Emmy is a fighter, a tough lady. Together with her white feathered Kipster-friend, Pinkel, who we also decided to rescue, she is enjoying her new life in my friends’ large garden in Tilburg. Many thanks to Trudi; time and time again she provides a loving home for hens we rescue during our Eyes on Animals work.

Margreet Steendijk, inspector Eyes on Animals
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