Farmed animals during the war – Anima International’s research on farms in Ukraine

On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in a major escalation of the war that began in 2014. The invasion created Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, with around 7 million Ukrainians fleeing the country and a third of the population displaced. It has also caused global food shortages.

The war has significantly impacted Anima International’s operations in Eastern Europe. After stopping work in Russia, the organization attempted to compile information on the situation of Ukrainian animal farms during the war and understand how to effectively help them in the face of war. Over the course of nearly two months, Anima International’s activists contacted more than 300 farms from across the country. Results of the analysis were published in the report on Ukrainian livestock farms during the war. 

Photo: News Television Agency

Anima International’s work in Ukraine

Anima International started to work in Ukraine in 2017. For over five years, the organization has been effectively working to improve the lives of farmed animals in the country. The two main areas of the organization’s focus were enhancing the welfare of laying hens and partnering with food producers to introduce and promote alternative animal products on the Ukrainian market.

Russian invasion of Ukraine has rendered the organization’s previous activities largely impossible. However, determined to continue to work effectively to end the suffering of farmed animals, our Ukrainian team decided to first understand what effect the war has had on the livestock industry.

Farmed animals in Ukraine prior to the war 

Ukraine is a large producer of meat and dairy products. According to 2018 data, Ukraine was among the world’s top ten egg producers with an annual production of 937,300.00 tonnes. The annual number of animals slaughtered for meat is estimated at 2.15 million cattle, 2.61 million turkeys, and 8.14 million pigs. However, the largest sub-sector of livestock production in Ukraine is the poultry industry. The biggest Ukrainian broiler producer, MHP, holds 17th place on the list of the World’s TOP 50 broiler producers. The number of chickens slaughtered for meat in 2018 was 658.15 million. In 2021, the production of broiler chickens in Ukraine was 1.6 million tonnes (live weight) of which 400,000 tonnes were exported.

Farmed animals in the early stage of invasion

Anima International reviewed the status and condition of Ukrainian farms three months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The applied methodology contains:

  • data from the State Statistics Service, the Department of Agrarian Policy of the Ministry of Economy, and the Association of Milk Producers;
  • results of a telephone survey conducted between April 6 and May 31, 2022;
  • images of the damages caused by warfare in the first months of the war.

Listed below is some of the information collected by Anima International. The English translation of the full document, originally published in Ukrainian, is available here.

Photo: Hryhoriy Tkachenko 

Infrastructure damage, reduction of exports, incomplete data

  • According to Taras Vysotsky, the First Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, as of April 8, 2022, 15% of Ukrainian livestock infrastructure has been destroyed. In the opinion of Olena Dadus, Deputy Director of the Department of Agrarian Policy, such losses do not represent a critical threat to the country’s food security.
  • According to the State Statistics Service, in the first quarter of 2022, exports of live animals from Ukraine decreased by 30.6% compared to the same period of the previous year. The blockade of Ukrainian seaports seems to be one of the primary reasons for the decline.
  • The Association of Milk Producers estimates that by the end of 2022, the number of cattle in Ukraine could decrease by 8–10%. One of the main reasons for the reduction is the death of animals as a result of warfare. Additionally, a certain number of cattle from areas currently occupied by Russian forces are excluded from Ukraine’s economy.
  • The farms located in eastern and south-eastern Ukraine, seized by the Russian army in the first months of the war, may be functioning, nevertheless, they are neither part of Ukraine’s economy, nor are they within the reach of animal advocacy organizations. The current status and condition of these farms are therefore unknown.

Survey results

From April 6 to May 31, 2022, Anima International’s activists randomly selected 303 farms across Ukraine and conducted a survey asking the farm owners if their facilities have suffered as a result of the Russian invasion. Out of the 303 farms, activists managed to obtain information about 139 establishments (46.2%). The absence of a response in the case of more than half of the farms that the activists tried to contact was mainly due to the lack of telephone connection, as well as the high caution of farm owners, who were reluctant to provide information on potential damage over the phone.

Damages caused by the war have been reported on 39 farms, which constitute 27.8% of the responses received and 12.9% of all farms that were contacted. The responses obtained during the survey were divided geographically and set in the context of the intensity of hostilities in a given region.

In the northern part of the country, which was heavily affected by the warfare in the first months of the invasion, activists were informed about a number of farms affected by the war, including:

  • 1,500 pigs died on a farm located in the Zhytomyr region as a result of shelling.
  • As a result of prolonged shelling, 4,000 pigs on a farm in the Sumy region died of starvation and dehydration.
  • 4,000 pigs died as a result of the destruction of another farm in the Sumy region.
  • A dairy farm in the Chernihiv region has informed activists that they are having trouble selling milk due to infrastructure damage.

It seems particularly difficult to collect information on the situation of the farms in eastern and southern Ukraine, where either fighting was taking place, or the territory was at that point occupied by the Russian army.  However, also in these areas of the country, activists report on several cases, including the case from Chornobayivka, Kherson region, where four million animals have been killed at Europe’s largest broiler chicken farm. The deaths of the birds were caused by starvation after a power outage shut down the automatic feeding system.

While the results of the research conducted by Anima International reveal numerous examples of damage on farms, the full picture of animal husbandry in Ukraine during the war remains unknown. Due to logistical constraints, the ability to conduct reliable research in the country as well as collect data from certain regions is highly limited. As fighting in the region continues with frequent air strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure, more damage and animal deaths are expected.


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