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Chicken carnage revealed in MAF report

20 September 2006

Chicken carnage revealed in MAF report

A report prepared for MAF that purports to show chickens are relatively well treated in New Zealand broiler farms actually indicates some 3 million chickens die per year as a result of the appalling conditions in which they are forced to spend their brief lives, Green Party Animal Welfare Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"This report was dressed up with classic PR spin, claiming that conditions were better for broiler chickens in New Zealand than elsewhere. What it has done is lift the lid on a quite appalling reality.

"By the report's own figures, some 3.8 percent of the chickens surveyed died prematurely, from such things as heart failure caused by forced growth, and from culling because of the leg deformities fostered by the crowded conditions..Given that some 80 million broiler chickens are raised annually in New Zealand, that means over 3 million chickens die prematurely, due to the cruel and abnormal environment in which they are raised.

"Chickens are living, sentient creatures. Yet they have been packed 20-30 to the square metre. All birds in the survey suffered in varying degrees from leg weakness, and therefore many of them spend a lot of time lying down rather than standing up..This results in skin abrasion and dermatitis, from being in contact with faeces in the soiled wood shavings strewn beneath them, which - the report reveals - are usually not changed over the term of their lives.

"To prevent disease becoming rampant, all of the chickens in the survey were continuously fed antibiotics for the duration of their lives. The report also shows that almost one percent of chickens in the survey - potentially, 800,000 chickens across the entire industry - suffered from severe leg weakness, such that they had considerable difficulty walking, or could not walk at all. .

"The report seeks to gloss over this appalling reality by indicating that conditions are worse in other countries. Obviously, this does not absolve the local poultry industry of its responsibility for what happens here," Ms Kedgley says.

"The report might have had a bit more credibility if it had been more representative. Those involved in its creation were very largely either directly involved in the poultry industry and with MAF or were closely connected - eg AgResearch. Where was the NGO animal welfare representative, or the consumer representative?

"Overall, it is incredible that a report that has been presented as evidence that animal welfare is good in New Zealand, should contain such damning signs to the contrary."

ENDS

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