December 02, 2003
Move To Wipe Out Factory Farming of Chickens in UK Failed
A legal move that would have wiped out the factory farming of chickens in the UK failed at the high court last Thursday.
Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) challenged government policies that, it says, breach EU law by allowing the birds to suffer during their production.
There should be a balance between the needs of animals and the commercial interests of intensive farming.
CIWF had alleged that chickens were being deliberately kept hungry for commercial gain. However animals are exploited by humans for any number of purposes which includes commercial gain.
More than 800m broiler chickens are reared each year in the UK, 98% of them on factory farms.
Modern broilers - chickens bred for their meat rather than eggs - are pushed through a selective breeding regime to reach their slaughter weight in just 41 days - twice as fast as 30 years ago.
Their legs, heart and lungs often fail to keep pace with the rapid body growth, and their legs can buckle under the strain of supporting an over-developed body.
Birds used for breeding have to be starved so that they do not die before reaching maturity.
The EU 1998 general farm animals directive includes clauses that bar keeping animals for farming purposes unless it can be done without detrimental effect on their health or welfare.
CIWF brought the case against the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which denied that it had failed to protect farm animals and failed to adopt a policy of prosecuting cases where broiler breeder chickens are subjected to restrictive feeding practices.
Joyce D'Silva, chief executive of CIWF, said after the ruling: "We are horrified at the court's decision, which allows factory farming to continue to inflict horrendous suffering on millions of chickens.
"We will be lobbying vigorously for the forthcoming EU directive on broilers to ban the use of fast-growing chickens, which leads to many of the birds suffering from painful leg disorders and to the breeding flock being chronically hungry for long periods.
"We also urge consumers to boycott factory-farmed chickens and to buy only free range or organic, slow-growing birds."
The organisation was refused permission to take the case to the House of Lords but can petition the law lords directly.
CIWF was also ordered to pay two-thirds of Defra's costs and faces a bill for legal fees estimated at more than £50,000.