Article contains images and details which some readers may find distressing.
Factory farming remains a relatively hidden industry with the squalid and cramped conditions animals endure mostly revealed through undercover investigations carried out by animal rights activists.
But a new film developed using 360 degree virtual reality technology now shows viewers exactly what its like being a chicken inside a factory farm.
Filmed by Animal Equality investigators, iAnimal is narrated by Sherlock actress Amanda Abbington, who broke down in tears when she watched the footage for the first time.
“This is so horrible, it’s just awful. How can you treat any living thing with such a lack of respect and disregard?
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“People need to be aware, and they’re not,” Abbington says.
“You should watch this before you eat meat, because I don’t think you would eat it.”
The Huffington Post UK was among the first to experience the virtual reality film.
You should watch this before you eat meat, because I don’t think you would eat it.Amanda Abbington
The film opens with an introduction from Abbington, who says: “Discover what the meat industry tries to hide from you and experience it from another perspective - through the eyes of another animal.”
The viewer is then transported to the floor of a factory farm, surrounded by hundreds of baby chicks. They are just one day old.
Every year in the UK 875 million chickens are slaughtered for meat.
Up to 50 million more chickens die on industry farms without ever reaching the slaughterhouse, Animal Equality says.
The next scene is shot just a few weeks later, but the chickens, who have been genetically engineered to grow faster, are much bigger. Some struggle to hold their own body weight as their little legs buckle under the strain.
Throughout the video ailments are documented to give the viewer a realistic picture of life inside the farms.
The final scenes are in the slaughterhouse.
iAnimal gets the viewer as close as humanly possible to knowing what it is like to live and be killed on an industrial chicken farm.
Footage from cameras shackled to the slaughterhouse line provide a unique perspective for the viewer.
As the camera is placed on the conveyor belt, rows of chickens in front and behind can be seen in uncomfortably close proximity to the viewer.
One chicken next to the viewer manages to escape the electrical water-bath, unaware that a worse fate awaits. The chicken’s throat is slit without it first being stunned.
The video, which was shot in Mexican and British slaughterhouses, was filmed by investigators over several months.
Scenes showing the young chicks and the animals’ slaughter were filmed in Mexico with the farmer’s permission.
Footage showing the broiler house were filmed covertly on a British farm.
Animal Equality UK director, Toni Shephard, told HuffPost UK that she believes most people will be shocked by the scale and intensity of chicken farming.
“Many think that chicken is a kinder or healthier meat to choose than beef or pork, but in reality chickens suffer in the greatest numbers and the most severely - crammed into industrial sheds in the tens of thousands where many go lame from the weight of their unnaturally accelerated growth and die of starvation or dehydration,” Shephard says.
“I hope people will recognise the immense suffering caused to billions of birds every year behind the closed doors of industrial chicken farms and slaughterhouses and they will choose to help end this cruelty by trying the ever-expanding range of meat-free options.”
At a launch event for the film this week, HuffPost UK was shown additional footage showing skips overflowing with rotting corpses of chickens who did not make it to the slaughterhouse.
Shephard says the skips “puts paid to the idea that chicken meat is a healthy option”.
The chicken footage is the second immersive video experience that Animal Equality has released this year.
In March the organisation’s iAnimal project showed what life was like for pigs on European farms.
To view the iAnimal virtual reality chicken farm film, click here.