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No End to Chicken Suffering as Genetic Horror Continues

MEDIA RELEASE


6 August 2012

No End to Chicken Suffering as Genetic Horror Continues

Chickens bred for meat in New Zealand have been let down by a new code of welfare which continues to allow cruel practices and poor genetics of the birds, says SAFE, New Zealand’s leading animal advocacy organisation.

Campaign director Eliot Pryor says SAFE is very disappointed with the limited scope of the just-released code for chickens raised for meat, referred to as broilers by producers. He says, “Chickens bred for their meat are among the worst-treated animals in the food industry, enduring short and brutal lives, and this new code will not improve their welfare in any meaningful way.”Meat chickens are selectively bred for fast growth and high meat production, reaching adult size in just six weeks. The chickens’ fast growth leads to severe stress and pain to their legs and hips, affecting their ability to walk.

“This new code has failed to address the single biggest cause of welfare problems for factory farmed chickens in New Zealand – the poor genetics of the birds,” Mr Pryor continues. “Due to their unnatural weight gain ‘meat chickens’ are non-survivors – even if rescued they usually do not live long due to their poor genetic disposition. This is the real tragedy of chicken production.”

Around 90 million chickens are slaughtered for their meat each year, and the majority of these birds are housed in large, overcrowded, windowless sheds that each hold as many as 40,000 birds. The high stocking rate and high mortality rates have not been properly addressed by the Code. Over three million birds a year die even before slaughter, at six weeks.

“This is the shocking reality of chicken meat production, and the new Code does not address the key welfare issues,” says Mr Pryor. “Without drastic and urgent change, chickens reared for meat will continue to suffer.”

While the National Animal Welfare Committee (NAWAC) has said that the genetics of the birds will be addressed in a future code of welfare, no timeframe has been set for this, and given the lack of progress in the just-released code, SAFE is not hopeful for significant change.

“NAWAC has really avoided the issues, and there is no alternative except for consumers to take action themselves, and to avoid the cruelty of the chicken industry altogether,” says Mr Pryor.
ends

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