EU broiler welfare proposals unveiled

THE LONG awaited proposed EU directive on the welfare of broilers finally arrived last month, receiving a mixed reception from farmers while animal welfare activists condemned it for not going far enough.


This directive for the first time, enshrines in law welfare regulations relating to the production of chickens for meat.


Furthermore, it is the first to focus on welfare output with flocks routinely monitored at abattoirs for welfare measures.


Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection said: “Intensive farming methods in this sector have led to significant welfare problems and consumers have repeatedly expressed concern about the welfare of chickens.


“The results-orientated approach set out in the proposal will bring concrete improvements for animals while also allowing farmers some flexibility in their farming methods.”


At the heart of the proposal is a basic maximum stocking density of 30 kg/m sq birds as well as a number of minimum conditions to ensure animal welfare.


But farms will be allowed to stock up to 38kg/m sq if they provide additional welfare resources and if inspections at the slaughter stage continue to prove that the animals have not suffered any problems.  


Commenting on the proposals, Charles Bourns, chairman of the NFU poultry committee believes the EC has missed a trick.


“It doesn’t sufficiently reward good producers with modern facilities. The Commission should have focused more on welfare outputs and not had a fixed stocking rate.


“One concern is that the UK minister has to apply to the EU for a derogation before producers can stock at the higher density.


“The industry must collect and present data showing that at the higher density currently allowed, welfare standards are high. If the UK fails to get this derogation, then we are in serious trouble,” said Mr Bourns.


Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council added that the Council would like it to apply to all chicken placed on the market, not just birds reared in the EU.


“The proposal still needs some fine tuning but in general we support the Commission’s recognition that good welfare is determined more by the standards and conditions in houses and by the management of the birds, including proper training for stockmen, than by stocking density itself.”


He stressed that the proposals go far beyond other EU welfare legislation because not only does it fix detailed input requirements for farms, but it also requires every flock from every farm opting for the higher stocking density to be monitored by the official veterinarian in the slaughterhouse.


Those failing to meet prescribed thresholds could be forced to reduce stocking density.


Despite this abattoir monitoring, several animal welfare organisations strongly criticised the proposals for not going far enough.


Paul Hook of Compassion in World Farming called on the UK government to use its EU presidency from July to strengthen the welfare proposals.