May 29, 2023
Case concerning genetically selected chickens dismissed in England, UK
A legal challenge over the use of fast-growing chickens on farms in England, the United Kingdom, has been dismissed in the high court.
Animal welfare campaigners claimed the genetically-selected breeds - which they call 'Frankenchickens' - suffer serious health problems.
The court assessed claims that the UK government had misinterpreted welfare regulations in allowing farming of the chickens.
On May 24, a judge dismissed the case.
In his decision, judge Sir Ross Cranston said UK Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey had not "acted contrary to her legal duties".
He added that she had considered the science and accepted that "there may be a higher risk of welfare issues with fast-growing meat chickens, but takes the view that they can be kept without detriment to their welfare since environmental conditions can have an influence on the health and welfare of birds with both fast and slow-growing breeds".
Dr. Marc Cooper, the RSPCA's head of farm animals, said the outcome represented "a significant failure to address the most pressing animal welfare issue of our time."
The RSPCA, which gave evidence at the hearing, said fast-growing chickens make up about 90% of the more than one billion meat chickens - also known as broiler chickens - slaughtered each year in the UK.
The Humane League UK, which brought the legal challenge, said the legal system was "failing" fast-growing chickens.
Animal welfare campaigners call them 'Frankenchickens' as they have been genetically-selected over decades to produce as much meat as possible in the shortest possible time. They reach slaughter weight within 34 to 36 days, with a growth speed said to be 12 weeks faster than it was 50 years ago.
The Humane League UK told the court that by allowing their use, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was breaching the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007.
The regulations set down detailed requirements on how farmed livestock, including meat chickens, should be kept.
A Defra spokesperson said the government welcomed the judgement and added: "Farm animals are protected by robust animal health and welfare laws, which include detailed requirements on how they should be kept.
"We will continue to work with the farming sector to maintain and enhance our high standards."