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‘Free-range’ chicken, a cruel con for caring Kiwis

May 1, 2019

Big chicken corporations are conning Kiwis into paying more for meat that is labelled free-range, despite the fact that the conditions these birds are kept in are almost indistinguishable from the standard in factory farm sheds.

Footage released by SAFE on Monday shows dead and dying chickens in an Auckland chicken farm; including stranded birds that have fallen on their backs, unable to get up. SAFE has today revealed this footage was from a farm that advertises its meat as free-range and released further material showing that only a tiny proportion of these birds make it outside the sheds.

SAFE Head of Campaigns Marianne Macdonald says that caring people are trying to do the right thing but are being misled.

"The social license for animal cruelty has expired in New Zealand," says Ms Macdonald.

"It is wrong that the phrase ‘free-range’ is being allowed to describe the appalling conditions these overgrown baby birds are crammed into - around 40,000 in each shed. This is a manipulative attempt to trick people into paying premium prices for suffering birds," says Ms Macdonald.

Several factors restrict the ability of chickens to get outside. These chickens are of a type that is selectively bred to grow to full size in less than six weeks. This explosive growth causes almost a third of birds to suffer lameness, making it painful for them to walk. A proportion also has open sores on their feet, that develop from weeks of sitting in their own excrement.

"Our footage shows that the only time more than a tiny number of birds go outside the shed, is when a worker walks through, frightening the chickens. Most so-called ‘free-range’ birds never make it outside and only leave the shed when they are trucked off to slaughter," says Ms Macdonald.

"It’s a tragedy that most of these birds will never get to walk outside or have the chance to feel the sun on their back. They deserve better, and so do the New Zealanders who care about animal welfare."

SAFE is encouraging people to choose delicious plant-based chicken alternatives and to visit safe.org.nz for more information.


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