Reducing suffering by improving chicken welfare standards: the how, what and why

Vicky Bond, Managing Director of The Humane League UK

  • 13th October
    10:00 - 10:45

Chickens reared for meat production account for around 90 – 95% of land-based animals raised for food globally. In the EU, this amounts to over 7.5 billion chickens every year. Corporate campaigning – getting companies to commit to improving standards – has become a focus for a number of NGOs in Europe. While in some countries this work is just beginning, in others, the vast majority of food businesses have now committed to ending cages for laying hens by 2025 or sooner. Groups working in these countries have now moved their attention to getting corporate commitments that cover a company’s chicken supply chain. Reared in often dark, dirty and cramped conditions, broiler chickens have been bred to produce as much muscle as quickly as possible in their short lives, particularly on the breast.

These birds may be protected by EU animal welfare laws but the minimum standards do not provide nearly enough for their welfare. Given the level of suffering they endure and the huge numbers being slaughtered on a daily basis, animal protection organisations have agreed on the fundamental issues that impact a chicken’s welfare. The groups have developed the European Chicken Commitment (ECC), a criteria for companies to commit to which provides essential minimum welfare requirements. However, the ECC is more complex than the ‘cage-free’ policy and therefore more difficult to communicate. It includes the breed, space allowance, lighting, enrichment, and slaughter practices.

In my presentation, I will delve into these issues and how the welfare improvements being asked for will significantly impact the lives of billions of chickens reared for meat every year.