20 April 2000
Cut poultry density, says RSPCA

LAME poultry are suffering considerable pain, according to new research by the RSPCA.

The animal welfare charity has issued the results of a study where lame and healthy birds were brought together to feed.

A batch of food treated with painkillers was consistently chosen by lame birds, and their walking improved as a result.

The healthy birds didnt choose the treated food.

In the light of these findings the RSPCA wants to see reduced poultry stocking levels and a move away from faster growing birds.

The charity is also calling for labelling to indicate where birds have been raised in more welfare-friendly ways with less lameness.

The RSPCA wants the government to introduce regulations to ensure producers provide good welfare for poultry.

A spokesman for Premier Foods, Britains second largest chicken producer, said the problems highlighted by the RSPCA were not something he recognised on his companys farms.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme that the recently launched assured chicken production scheme ensured consumers could choose a product reared to high standards.

The spokesman said Premier Foods had introduced slower-growing birds, and argued that consumers had the right to buy products produced over a range of husbandry systems.

He also claimed that RSPCA research was conducted on a limited sample of birds.