Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Compassion in World Farming took the Chicken Out! campaign straight to the UK Government. Handing over a giant postcard signed on behalf of over 150,000 supporters and over 200 supportive MPs, we called on the Minister responsible for animal welfare to take the welfare of chickens seriously through UK law.
Despite sales of higher welfare chicken increasing by 42%, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is planning to lower UK standards and effectively give the green light to further intensification of chicken farming.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "People have become increasingly concerned about the welfare conditions that their food has been raised in. Consumers, especially those on tight budgets, rely on the Government to ensure that the food they have access to is of an acceptable ethical standard. The Government's proposal to reduce welfare standards is not only wrong but ignores this increasing public opinion and most importantly, ignores public interest."
Compassion in World Farming is disappointed that EU law, which comes into force in 2010, allows chickens to be stocked at up to 42kg/m², which is equivalent to 19-21 birds per square metre - this is far too high and represents severe overcrowding. The EU law also doesn't cover the issue of fast-growing breeds, which causes millions of to chickens to suffer from lameness and die from heart and lung failure each year.
To come in line with the EU, Defra is planning to abandon its previous recommended maximum density of 34kg/m² (15-17 chickens per square metre) and instead increase the maximum permitted density to either 39kg/m² (18-19 chickens per square metre) or even up to 42kg/m² (19-21 chickens per square metre).
Lasse Bruun, Compassion's Head of Campaigns, said: "The Government's proposals, if enacted, would undermine the most basic principles of animal welfare. Intensively farmed chickens are already suffering from lack of space, lameness, weak legs and lung failure, yet this proposal will only make the situation worse and goes entirely against the public's demand for higher animal welfare."
URGENT ACTION NEEDED!
We need your urgent support to convince the UK Government not to lower chicken welfare standards. We must ensure that higher standards of welfare are written into UK law.