The UK Government is set to lower chicken welfare standards despite soaring sales of higher welfare chicken, major shifts in retailer policies and high-profile chicken campaigning.
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.
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 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).
Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor at Compassion in World Farming, comments: "This is a huge step backwards for chicken welfare. We were immensely disappointed with the EU Directive when it was first agreed in 2007. Now the UK is planning to lower its standards to come into line with the Directive, giving a green light to the continuation of intensive poultry production. Cramming 19 or more chickens into a square metre is unacceptable."
"Many major retailers are committing to improving chicken welfare as a result of pressure from consumers and campaigns by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. We have also seen over 160 UK MPs supporting a Parliamentary motion calling for improved chicken standards. So why is the Government so out of touch with public opinion?"
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.
Time is running out - please click here to email Defra and your local media to show the UK Government how strongly you feel.