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New EU Rules Do Little to Protect Chickens

by 5m Editor
2 July 2010, at 10:30am

EU - Beginning yesterday, European poultry producers must raise their meat chickens according to harmonised EU standards laid down in Council Directive 2007/43/EC but they will not greatly improve broiler welfare, says a welfare campaigning group.

Eurogroup for Animals believes that these regulations will, however, do little to improve the welfare of over five billion chickens produced in intensive production systems in the EU every year.

The new rules which all member states must have transposed into their own legislation were adopted in 2007 by EU agriculture ministers much to the disappointment of Eurogroup for Animals as the compromise agreed by the ministers did not take into account the welfare needs of chickens as recommended by the European Food Safety Authority.

Standard chicken production in Europe is an industry which pushes the animals to the extreme. Cramped together in sheds without adequate space, genetically selected to grow faster and produce more meat resulting in legs that are too weak to carry their weight, lameness and foot infections as well as the unacceptably high number of animals which die before they are due to be slaughtered at only 40 days old is the reality of producing cheap chicken meat with no respect to the animals involved.

Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the conditions that poultry are exposed to and sales of welfare friendly poultry, such as Freedom Foods, Beter Leven and Label Rouge, are growing year on year. Producers have ignored this demand and by watering down the content of this directive have failed to recognise the huge market opportunity for high welfare products and as well as the benefits that animals in the production chain will also receive.

“This Directive does not protect meat chickens. It is a farce and only maintains what the producers already apply. For example the space required per animal is no bigger than a single sheet of A4 paper and we know that in countries outside the EU the animals get much more room per animal,” said Sonja Van Tichelen, Director, Eurogroup for Animals.

“This legislation does not even take into account the main concern we have with chicken farming that is the genetic selection of the animals which allows producers to produce and reproduce animals which suffer from their birth to the slaughterhouse,” she added.

“Until better standards are imposed the consumer is the only one who can take action through the power of their wallet; choosing to pay more not only for better protection of the birds but also for better quality meat,” she concluded.