FARMED ANIMAL WATCH
OBJECTIVE INFORMATION FOR THE THINKING ADVOCATE
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The treatment of "broiler" chickens in the US has come under fire from a veterinarian and animal activists who say that selective breeding, special feed and drugs cause chickens to grow quickly without developing the necessary skeletal structure to support themselves. Chickens today are grown to "market size" in only 45 days, compared to an average of 84 days fifty years ago. University of Guelph veterinary professor Ian Duncan said, "I think it's time for breeding companies to take a step back. They have been breeding heavily for fast growth without taking into consideration the health of the birds." A spokesman for the National Chicken Council denied the claim, saying that Europe has a problem with weak-boned chickens, but not the US, a statement that is directly contradicted by a recent report from activist group Compassion Over Killing (COK). According to a study cited in COK's report, "90 percent of broilers had detectable leg problems, while 26 percent suffered chronic pain as a result of bone disease." (See #7, http://tinyurl.com/2neb3 )
In the UK, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is taking heat from the British Poultry Council (BPC) for its airing of "secretive filming and commentary" about the welfare of "broiler" chickens. The Council questions the impartiality and accuracy of the broadcasting company's report on lameness and hock burns of chickens. As of April 29, the BPC is still awaiting a response to its complaint from the company. Also in the UK, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has launched a campaign to educate consumers about the living and dying conditions of "broiler" chickens. The campaign is in response to an RSPCA survey that found that nearly half of consumers think these chickens are raised in the same manner as egg-laying hens, and more than a third of respondents mistakenly believe that the UK's "Red Tractor" logo requires that they be "free range." An RSPCA scientist said that about 100,000 "broiler" chickens die prematurely every day "due to strains placed on their young bodies."
The University of Georgia published a Q&A fact sheet relating to "contract broiler production" in the US. Among the key points from the series: i) The US poultry industry has seen significant growth because of increased chicken consumption by "health-conscious" consumers; ii) There are about 50 poultry companies operating in the US, but the top 10 account for more than 60% of all production; iii) An estimated 99% of all "broiler" chickens are produced by "contract growers;" iv) For disposal of chicken litter as a fertilizer, an estimated 35-50 acres is needed for each broiler house: http://www.thepoultrysite.com/FeaturedArticle/FATopic.asp?Display=147 (see also: http://www.ces.uga.edu/pubcd/L423-w.html ).
Additional information on "broiler" chickens is available at:
Activists Charge Mistreated Chickens Have Weak Legs," Scripps Howard News Service, Lance Gay, April 20, 2004
"BBC under fire from poultry body," Farm Weekly Interactive, Richard Allison, April 29, 2004
"RSPCA to Highlight Chicken Cruelty," ITV Network, May 5, 2004
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
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