Dec 16, 2009
The Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced new regulations for broiler (meat) chickens in the UK. Defra will now allow broilers to be stocked at 39kg/m² (up to 19 chickens/m²), which at least puts a minimum limit on the amount of space each chicken should have – something that was previously missing from UK chicken farming legislation.
WSPA has been supporting the RSPCA’s Quash the Squash e-petition and CIWF’s Chicken Out campaign, as all three organisations had concerns that Defra seemed likely to reduce the amount of space that broiler chickens have to live in.
While Defra has rejected industry pressure to be allowed to use exceptionally high stocking densities for chickens reared for meat, we feel these new regulations allow the factory farming of chickens to continue practically unchecked.
"We welcome Defra’s decision not to allow the very high stocking densities under the new EU Directive of 42kg/m² (up to 21 chickens/m²). However, the new regulation continues to permit severe overcrowding in UK broiler sheds,” says Eloise Shavelar, Chicken Out! campaigner for animal welfare charity, CIWF.
The new regulation almost completely ignores high profile calls for raised standards by MPs, consumers and animal welfare groups, such as the recommendation of the EU Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare which concluded that “above 30kg/m² [up to 15 chickens/m²], even with very good environmental control systems, there is a steep rise in the frequency of serious problems.”
The RSPCA Freedom Food scheme follows the advice of the EU Committee and sets a maximum density of 30kg/m². The Parliamentary motion signed by 278 MPs calls for the Defra regulation to be based on the Freedom Food standards, a call that has been comprehensively rejected by Defra.
Päivi Vahvelainen, WSPA UK’s Programmes Manager says: “It is disappointing that the UK government fails to set high standards of animal welfare for meat chickens, especially in the face of an increasing number of consumers and MPs calling for higher animal welfare. With our reputation as a nation of animal lovers, we should be setting the standard, not following the EU.”
Find out more about WSPA’s Farm Animal Welfare work>>