Defra has ordered all poultry, including turkeys, broilers, egg-laying hens and even backyard chickens, to be moved indoors for 30 days, as a precautionary measure against the recent European outbreak of bird flu.
An overly-cautious move
We believe this requirement is an overly-cautious move by Defra at this time. Indeed, confinement of free-range flocks raises serious welfare concerns.
Philip Lymbery, our CEO, said: “If plans are announced to bring free-range and organic poultry indoors to help tackle an outbreak, we believe this should be carried out in response to a real and substantial local risk and should last only as long as this real risk is present.
“Unless the disease has been detected in this country, UK birds should be allowed to enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. If birds have to be moved indoors, they should be provided with enrichment to promote foraging, which is a natural behaviour essential to their welfare.”
High demand for meat fuels intensive farming
In intensive farms, thousands of birds are kept in crowded conditions, indoors. This causes stress, which can make the birds more vulnerable to infection. An intensive poultry farm provides the optimum conditions for viral mutation and transmission – thousands of birds crowded together in a closed, warm and dusty environment is highly conducive to the transmission of a contagious disease.
As our demand for meat and animal products has increased, so has the number of farm animals. This explosion in numbers, combined with the geographical concentration of intensive poultry farms and the transport of animals over long distances is facilitating the emergence of new strains of viruses that could cause a human pandemic, with potentially devastating consequences.
Time for a re-think of how we farm
The upshot is that animal welfare is set to be dealt yet another blow, as the consequences of farming birds in cruel, cramped conditions continue to have repercussions across the world. It’s time for a re-think of the way that we rear farm animals, instead of having to take drastic, reactive actions which could lead to animal suffering.