The UK Government is set to lower chicken welfare standards despite soaring sales of higher welfare, 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.
Celebrity Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who launched the Chicken Out! campaign in 2007 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. This space is equivalent to 19-21 birds per square meter which represents severe overcrowding. In addition, the EU law 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).
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Compassion present Chicken Out! petition to Defra
Eloise Shavelar, Compassion's Chicken Out! Campaign Co-ordinator said: "The proposed legislation would mean a huge step backwards for UK poultry welfare. Compassion in World Farming would be very disappointed if the UK supported the EU directive; effectively giving the green light to factory farming and removing any obligation on standard producers to improve welfare conditions.
This new law will undermine achievements to date if the crowded conditions in chickens shed are made worse. At a time when consumer demand for higher welfare chickens is growing, we urge Defra to consider this legislation carefully. With many major retailers reacting to consumer supported campaigns and with over 260 MPs having signed a Parliamentary motion for improved standards, the government must acknowledge the importance of this issue and respond to the public pressure."
Defra will be finalising and publicising the UK law on meat chickens in September.
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.