People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on Thursday played the footage taken secretly at an Indian farm which supplies Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Bangalore.
Director Ingrid Newkirk took the opportunity to publicise the latest campaign to close the fast food firm.
The 10-minute video showed chickens stuffed into overcrowded warehouses, and leg deformities caused by genetic engineering, breeding and overfeeding.
All the birds were clearly suffering at the hands of uncaring workers at the Venkateshwara Hatcheries, based in the western city of Pune.
Customers expect standards
Newkirk said the footage directly contradicted KFC's claim it strictly adhered to animal welfare standards.
"The air inside these filthy barns reeks of ammonia fumes making it difficult for the birds to breathe. No one with a grain of compassion should set foot in KFC," she said of the video which was shot by an amateur filmmaker.
She added that KFC wanted the public to believe that its chicken suppliers adhered to humane standards.
KFC chickens "have painful crippling injuries as they become top heavy and cannot bear the weight of their bodies. They also cut off the beaks by hot wire"
"This footage tells the real story. Cruelty is the order of the day on KFC contract factory farms".
Stop genetic engineering
PETA wants an end to the genetic engineering of chickens, scalding and cruel human handling.
The organisation has asked for a meeting with Indian KFC officials to put forward their demands for change.
The fast food chain kills more than 800 million chickens every year around the world and in most of the hatcheries the birds were genetically engineered to grow faster.
"Due to this they suffer from heart attacks and have painful crippling injuries as they become top heavy and cannot bear the weight of their bodies. They also cut off the beaks by hot wire," Newkirk said.
In 1995 when KFC opened in Bangalore, it was hit by protests from farmers' groups who were against increasing globalisation.
In the same year the company was accused by non-governmental organisations of serving chicken with high levels of monosodium glutamate and was forced to close its New Delhi outlet.
A month ago PETA dropped a lawsuit against KFC, after the fast-food giant has agreed to change its statement on how its chickens are treated before reaching the restaurant.
The video comes at a bad time for KFC, already facing pressure on another political front from pro-Palestine activists who have placed it on a boycott list of international companies dealing with the Israeli state.