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Revealed: Inside the UK's chicken sheds

News Section Icon Published 03/01/2008

A new investigation by Compassion in World Farming exposes the horrendous conditions of the UK's chicken sheds.

In the week before Channel 4's Food Week (7 - 14 January) which sees celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall lift the lid on intensive chicken production, Compassion in World Farming teamed up with The Independent newspaper to reveal the horrific conditions which the average chicken has to face.

Our investigators, taking the appropriate biosecurity measures, filmed in a number of UK farms and found lameness and death.

Warning: this film features potentially upsetting scenes of animal cruelty

Inside the UK's chicken sheds

The accompanying footage was obtained by Compassion in World Farming during late 2007.

This footage was taken at a farm which supplies meat to Sun Valley Foods. This company supplies meat to major fast food outlets and UK supermarkets.

The investigation followed the short life of chickens in a number of farms, returning to see the chicks grow from one day until a week before slaughter.

Lesley Lambert, Director of Research and Education for Compassion in World Farming said: "These investigations show that intensive poultry production has inherent animal welfare issues. Many chickens, which have been so overbred to produce maximum meat yield, suffer lameness, heart and lung problems.

"All the farms visited used the same breed of chicken which comes from one of the three companies that supply the vast majority of the world's chicken. Whether you are in the UK, Thailand or Brazil the same three companies provide the breeding stock. The conditions we saw in these sheds are symptomatic of today's poultry production."

Inside the shed, the floor is caked in excreta as it is unlikely to be changed throughout the growing period. The birds form a carpet across the floor and are closely bunched together, at a high stocking density. The air appears dusty and is likely to contain high levels of ammonia from the faeces and other excreta on the floor. There are at least several hundred birds in the shed.

The birds look like they are a standard intensive breed, which are bred for fast growth - this means they are more prone to lameness, sudden death syndrome and respiratory disorders than a traditional free range breed.

Several of the birds near the camera seemed to have trouble walking, with some walking a few steps flapping their wings. This type of lameness has been shown in scientific research to be associated with pain. There is at least one dead bird seen on the footage I viewed. Difficulties in walking are likely to impede birds' access to the water troughs. As the birds are only 30-32 days (four and a half weeks old), they are likely to be grown for around another week before being killed - lameness problems are known to get worse as birds get older."

Channel 4 Food Week

Compassion in World Farming footage is scheduled to be shown on Jamie's Fowl Dinners on 11 January at 9pm which sees the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver take on a new fight as he reveals just how the UK's chickens are reared and slaughtered.

Hugh's Chicken Run broadcast 7, 8 and 9 January at 9pm claims it will change the way we look at chicken for good as he reveals the true horrors behind intensive chicken farming.

Compassion in World Farming worked behind the scenes with both programmes providing expert knowledge and advice.

Related information

  • Read the full article in the Independent or on their website.
  • If you want to buy chicken that has led a decent life visit our Supermarket survey.
  • For further information on the plight of meat chickens visit our broiler campaign pages.

Donate to our campaign to stop factory farming.

They will feel better and so will you.


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