The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is investigating a Hanover chick hatchery after some undercover video surfaced.

The video shot by Mercy for Animals Canada - an animal rights group promoting a vegetarian lifestyle – shows an assembly line of newborn chicks at Horizon Poultry, which is owned by Maple Leaf Foods.

It was shot over a six-week period earlier this year. Chicks are separated by gender and shipped off to farms across Ontario to be raised, but some don't make it, as the video shows.

Mercy for Animals says the treatment their undercover employee found disgusted them. The organization is calling on Maple Leaf Foods to immediately implement new animal welfare standards, including:

  • Prevent baby chicks from being dropped, thrown, crushed or otherwise mishandled by workers or machinery.
  • Create zero-tolerance policy for live scalding of birds in industrial washing machines.
  • Install video monitoring systems, live-streamed to the Internet.

Horizon Poultry referred CTV News to Maple Leaf Foods.

Maple Leaf says they are reviewing all protocols at their Horizon Poultry plant and corrective measures have been put in place in the two weeks since they've seen the video.

Horizon Poultry has been in Hanover for 45 years. They employ 750 people at four plants in Hanover, Ayr, Kitchener and St. Marys.

The OSPCA says they have experts going through the video now to find out if any animal cruelty is taking place. They say they are in the early stages of their investigation.

Maple Leaf says they have regular audits of their  facilities and everything they do attempts to establish and uphold high standards of animal welfare.

Maple Leafs Foods statement

"Maple Leaf has zero tolerance for animal abuse. Animal welfare guides all of our operating procedures and is a central facet of training in any facility that has animals under its care.

"All our operations are required to undergo comprehensive annual third-party animal welfare audits, conducted by certified PAACO auditors (Professional Animal Auditors Certification Organization). These third-party auditors have open access to our facilities and the freedom to interview any of our employees as part of the audit process. To our knowledge there are few other hatcheries in Canada that do this.

"All the training, documentation, scrutiny, auditing, and verification we have in place is to establish a culture and supporting practices that uphold high standards of animal welfare. But no workplace environment is 100% risk free and we value learning that allows us to constantly improve. We are reviewing all of our protocols at this facility with our people and will take immediate action to ensure we follow the best possible standard of animal care."