November 04, 2003



UK Government Confronted On Chicken Meat Production Policies

UK charity Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) challenged the government on its policies regarding chicken meat production last Thursday. The High Court action coincides with the launch of CIWF's new report, The Welfare of Broiler Chickens in the EU.


CIWF contends that the law provides that animals must be given enough food to promote a positive sense of well-being and 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". However, the charity argues that modern meat chickens have been selectively bred to reach their slaughter weight in just 41 days, which is twice as fast as 30 years ago.


In effect, CIWF believes that the government is breaching the law by permitting the use of fast-growing broilers who suffer from chronic hunger due to enforced starvation. This process is carried out to allow them to stay alive long enough to reach sexual maturity at 18 weeks. This can result in painful leg disorders and heart failure, CIWF said.


Rabinder Singh QC, representing CIWF, told the High Court that broiler chickens are by far constitute the greatest proportion of all farm animals and most are reared in factory farms. He said there was increasing scientific evidence of severe health problems among these chickens which are selectively bred to grow rapidly. Evidence shows that while broilers' muscle grows rapidly, supporting structure of legs, heart and lungs fails to keep pace with rapid body growth.


"CIWF believes the selective breeding of chickens for fast growth is the biggest scandal in farming today," said CIWF chief executive Joyce D'Silva. "Millions of birds are starved and millions more endure misery as their weakened legs and hearts fail. We hope our case will prove that such practices are not only unethical but also illegal."

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