Animal welfare charity The Humane League is taking the UK government to court over the continued breeding of ‘Frankenchickens’ – birds which are bred for phenomenal growth but which suffer serious health conditions as a result.
If passed, the ruling will force the Department of Food Environment and Rural Affairs [Defra ]to “take responsibility” and stop allowing the practise to continue.
The charity claims that improving the welfare of broiler chickens will result in both better meat for the public and greater profits for farmers. More than 140 companies – including Marks and Spencer and Waitrose – have already signed up to its Better Chicken Commitment welfare policy, which aims to eliminate some of the worse problems involved in factory farming.
According to The Humane League, 90% of chickens grown for meat grow “unnaturally” fast and reach “staggering sizes”.
“For decades, the animal industry has selectively bred chickens to grow faster and faster — these animals grow 400% faster than they did in the 1950s,” The Humane League UK senior public affairs lead Amro Hussain said.
“Today they reach slaughter weight at only five weeks old — they’re just babies. The results are huge, often immobile birds, who struggle to walk, get burned by their own waste, suffer heart-attacks, and whose flesh is streaked with fat.
“We call them ‘Frankenchickens’ because we have created a genetic monster — animals who live lives of inescapable misery.”
In addition, The Humane League claimed that the health complications such as “hock burn” and “green muscle disease” can also interfere with the meat that they yield.
Under the Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations 2007, animals may only legally be kept for farming “if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of their genotype or phenotype, that they can be kept without any detrimental effect on their health or welfare”.
Solicitor Edie Bowles, representing The Humane League, claimed: “The science shows that fast-growing chickens slaughtered for meat cannot be kept without such detriment.”
“It is our position that keeping these birds is unlawful.”
The Humane League’s request for a judicial review will be an initial permission hearing at the High Court, scheduled for March 22.
If the league’s argument is successful, the review will move to a full hearing.