United Poultry Concerns
Daily Mail, Sean Poulter, 9th April 2003
| The suffering endured by millions of "factory chickens",
which are bred to grow unnaturally fast, is to be challenged in a
cruelty test case. The birds frequently develop painful leg deformities,
together with heart and lung problems, because their bodies cannot
cope with the speed of growth produced by decades of specialist breeding.
Welfare groups have brought the action because they believe the Government
should have blocked the development of these modern breeds, which
grow up to four times as fast as a traditional chicken. The rate of
growth has reached such phenomenal proportions that farmers have to
cut feed rations to slow it down, causing chronic hunger, the groups
The legal move follows repeated warnings about the cruelty involved
from the Government's own advisers on the Farm Animal Welfare Council
(FAWC). In natural circumstances, a traditional chicken breed would
take five to six months to reach adult weight of 4.4lb. That is three
to four times longer than the 41 days required by the 800million "factory
chickens" bred annually in the UK. These broiler chickens are
raised on an industrial scale in vast sheds containing up to 20,000
birds. They are kept in constant light and given medicated feed to
stem disease outbreaks. Most are vaccinated against salmonella to
protect consumers, but millions of birds carry the far more dangerous
bug campylobacter, the biggest cause of food poisoning in the country.
Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) yesterday revealed that it has
filed papers at the High Court seeking permission to challenge the
lawfulness of the Government's policies on the fast-growing chickens.
The group argues that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural
Affairs (DEFRA) has been negligent in allowing the creation of breeds
that inevitably endure pain. It is basing its case on the EU's 1998
General Farm Animals Directive, which states that: "No animal
shall be kept for farming purposes unless it can reasonably be expected,
on the basis of its genotype ... that it can be kept without detrimental
effect on its health or welfare." The same directive stipulates
that animals must be given sufficient food to maintain them in good
health and satisfy their nutritional needs.
A CIWF spokesman said: "There is ample evidence to show that
fast-growing broilers experience significant suffering. "This
is exacerbated in the breeding flock by the restriction of food which
leads to some birds being very hungry. "We believe the Government
is breaching the EU directive by permitting the use of fast-growing
broiler genotypes which suffer from serious health and welfare problems."
Three years ago, the FAWC said studies suggested there had been little
or no improvement in evidence of lameness in the birds. The chairman,
Dr Judy MacArthur Clark, suggested that virtually all heavy roasting
birds would suffer lameness and called for cruelty prosecutions of
farmers. However, virtually nothing has been done by the Government
Peter Bradnock, of the British Poultry Council, which represents producers,
described the CIWF case as "unfounded". "We take welfare
issues and attacks on welfare standards very seriously," he said.
"Lameness is not a condition that particularly effects modern
chickens. Levels are very low. 'Certainly there is a controlled diet
for these chickens, but the birds are growing all the time of their
life and they are not starved."
DEFRA said that farms were subject to regular veterinary inspections
and it was possible to take action - including prosecutions - against
farmers whose chickens were found to be suffering.
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.|
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150