Chicken Out! has been calling on the UK government to take the welfare of chickens seriously by introducing legislation that meets the behavioural needs of the millions of chickens kept in factory farms. So far the campaign has persuaded the UK government to introduce legislation that is stronger than EU law requires and has recruited the support of over 40% of MPs.
GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES MEAT CHICKEN LEGISLATION
Thanks to the tireless lobbying of the Chicken Out! campaign and with the support of over 270 MPs, the Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has rejected industry pressure to be allowed to use exceptionally high stocking densities for chickens reared for meat. The government is planning only to permit a maximum stocking density of 39kg/m² (up to 19 chickens/m²) for broilers, not 42kg/m² (up to 21 chickens/m²).
Defra could have increased the maximum permitted density to 42kg/m² (19-21 chickens per square metre). Chicken Out! welcomes Defra’s decision not to permit the very high stocking densities which will be legal under the new EU Directive which comes into place in June 2010.
Nonetheless, this decision will allow the factory farming of chickens to continue unchecked. The new regulation does not fully embrace the high welfare standards called for by Chicken Out! supporters, MPs, consumers and animal welfare groups.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says: “Although I’m relieved Defra are not permitting the high stocking density of the EU, there is still much further to go to improve rearing systems for chickens in the UK. This law may permit meat chickens to have more space than their EU cousins but they will still be farmed in conditions that fail to meet many of their basic needs. Thankfully, we haven’t taken a step backwards but we still absolutely must take more steps forwards.
Around 700 million chickens suffer in intensive farming systems every year in the UK. This new decision fails to tackle the high levels of leg and heart disorders from which they suffer. As a result, millions of chickens will continue to suffer from lameness and die from heart failure each year in the UK’s standard intensive systems. A recent Defra funded study shows that over a quarter of broiler chickens suffer from painful leg disorders, yet they have ignored their own findings.
Whilst Chicken Out! is pleased that Defra went one step better than was possible, we urge them to go further and to encourage chicken farmers to reduce their stocking rates, use more robust chicken breeds and include animal welfare as a core goal in food policy and legislation.
Thank you everyone who has taken part in this campaign. We now have our first ever legislation specific to meat chicken welfare. We shall make every effort to build on and improve this legislation in the future.
CHICKEN WELFARE IN TOP FIVE OF MP CONCERNS
A parliamentary motion calling for the UK Government to improve the welfare of chickens reached a top five position out of over 2400 tabled motions.
EDM 581 achieved…
- raised profile of chicken welfare among UK politicians
- cross party support for improved standards
- House of Commons debates
- MPs lobbying the government for legislative change
With an amazing 278 MP signatures at the close of the parliamentary session (November 2009), an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for improved welfare of chickens came fifth behind calls to support solar energy and justice for Equitable Life policyholders.
Over 40% of all UK MPs supported EDM 581, calling for clear and honest labelling on chicken meat and urging the UK Government to improve the welfare of chickens reared for meat.
Mike Hancock MP, sponsor of EDM 581 says “Animal welfare is an important issue among UK politicians. The strong support for this parliamentary motion should send a clear message through the UK Government and to the supermarkets that the welfare of chickens must be taken seriously.
“I thank the supporters of the Chicken Out! campaign for bringing this issue and parliamentary motion to the attention of their local MPs”.
Chicken Out! is delighted that a parliamentary motion has achieved a record number of MPs’ publicly showing support for higher welfare standards for chickens. With over 167,000 people now signed up to the Chicken Out! campaign and this unprecedented level of parliamentary support for animal welfare, it clearly shows that the welfare of chickens is being taken seriously.
Thank you to everyone who contacted their MP – together we are making a difference to the lives of millions of chickens.
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