To satisfy the ever increasing demand for low-cost meat, chickens are being bred to grow to slaughter weight in less than six weeks. This is half the time it would have taken to rear chickens thirty years ago.
Every year, over 50 billion chickens are reared worldwide, mostly en masse in windowless, barren and overcrowded sheds. Since they have been bred to grow faster than nature intended, they can suffer enormously, both physically and with poor health.
Fat, lame chicken - this is intensive farming.
Millions go lame as their legs can't support their over-developed bodies. Many more will die of heart and lung problems.
As they grow in size, conditions inside the shed worsen: overcrowding means there is no space to move about; therefore, they can’t exercise. Squatting for long periods of time in their own droppings causes painful blisters on their breasts, feet and legs (hock burns). Some find it difficult to reach the feed and water points in the shed and can die of starvation. Their bodies may be left to decompose on the floor.
Overcrowded chicken shed or breeding ground for disease?
Intensive farming methods have contributed to the emergence and spread of diseases such as Avian ‘Flu, with deadly consequences for humans.
Factory farmed chickens are a common cause of food poisoning by bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.
The use of antibiotics to improve growth-rates and to prevent and control disease has resulted in the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotics are used in large quantities to combat diseases caused by overcrowding and unsanitary conditions – treating the symptoms, not the cause.
What are the alternatives?
Organic and free-range farming methods allow chickens to grow naturally with access to outside space, fresh air and exercise. Higher welfare indoor systems such as RSPCA Freedom Food allow more space, enriched environments and use slower growing breeds.
We are campaigning for all chickens to be reared in more humane and natural farming systems. The poultry industry must change its policy from mass producing cheap meat to producing fewer, better quality chickens who have a better quality of life.
How can we bring about change?
We can end the suffering of chickens by educating consumers to shop compassionately. At the same time, we are encouraging governments to change the legislation affecting the poultry industry and retailers to stop selling intensively-farmed chicken.