Poor chickens, poor people


There are 47 million laying hens kept for egg production in Germany alone. Most of these are kept in barns: 9 hens per square metre. In France, things are even worse: 69% of laying hens are kept in cages, at 12 hens per square metre. But even consumers who deliberately avoid buying eggs from caged birds are still eating them: as the egg ingredient in foods such as pasta, sausages or sauces. And what happens to worn-out European laying hens? Slaughtered after 18 months, they are mainly exported to Africa. The cheap meat from subsidised European intensive farming is cheaper than the domestic product; African producers are going bust; jobs are being lost for good. Economic migration is being stoked up. The documentary film POOR CHICKENS, POOR PEOPLE gives an insight into the European farming system, where influential lobby groups and large-scale entrepreneurs enrich themselves  – at the expense of animals, humans and the environment.

Director's statement

POOR CHICKENS, POOR PEOPLE is the 3rd documentary film that Jens Niehuss has produced for Arte on the subject of “meat”. In 2016, he demonstrated in “The meat trail” how horse meat and rotten meat was able to find a way into our ready-meals such as lasagne. In 2017, JN explained in “Poor pig, rich business” why a schnitzel can be so cheap and what the consequences of that are for people, animals and the environment. Each time, JN stumbles upon a crass contradiction: the consumer is not getting what he wants – meat and eggs from animal husbandry with animal welfare at its heart. That’s because the lobbyists for the European meat industry ensure that the politicians act against the interests of consumers and for the benefit of business. And animal protection, our health, our environment and the climate are ditched along the way. The only solution is for the consumer to change his own behaviour: no longer “greed is good” and buying cheap meat from the supermarket, but consuming less – but better products – sourced from farming which focuses on animal welfare.

Why we selected this film

An investigation which takes us into the universe of the international egg industry, revealing daunting figures, volumes, questionable practices and the poor treatment that this kind of industry encourages. No need to show difficult images in this film. The example of a chicken farm which is respectful of the animals' needs, shown in parallel, speaks for itself and underlines the aberration of this dehumanised industry and points to the possible alternatives.