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The Truth Behind British Chicken
Chickens are the most abused land animal on the planet. In the UK alone, more than one billion chickens are killed every year.
They are bred to grow so big and so fast that their legs and organs can’t keep up, causing them to suffer from heart attacks, organ failure and debilitating leg deformities. Those that survive this miserable existence are typically slaughtered at just 35 days old.
Slaughter is not any less painful. Chickens are killed using electrical waterbaths or gas. For an electrical waterbath stunning, chickens are hung upside down by their legs onto a moving conveyor, which carries them to a ‘waterbath’, where their heads swing into the electrified water. This process is extremely stressful and painful for chickens and is used to either stun or stun and kill them. Their throats are then slit after they exit the water bath.
Chickens are intelligent beings capable of feeling fear and pain. Like other animals, including humans, they want to live. This desire for life is the reason why many birds lift their heads during the stunning process to avoid the electrified water and are therefore slaughtered while still conscious.
Beyond the standards themselves, the lack of enforcement of the laws that do currently exist in the UK is a widespread issue.
To date, we have investigated 19 chicken farms linked to major supermarkets – including Tesco and Asda – and major fast food chains, like Nando’s and McDonald’s.
In several farms, our investigators have documented workers deliberately kicking and stepping on birds, or crushing the necks of those deemed too weak to be profitable.
On some of the farms, smaller birds were deprived of water as the drinkers were routinely raised to heights they were unable to reach. Others, clearly in pain and about to die, were carelessly thrown onto a pile and left to suffer there for hours.
What’s worse, is that at least 18 of the farms we investigated were assured by Red Tractor – the biggest farm accreditation scheme in the UK, which claims to ensure that the animal products it certifies are ‘responsibly sourced’ and the animals are ‘well-cared for’.
Through undercover investigations, Animal Equality is shining a light inside factory farms, exposing the horrific conditions in which animals are kept in these dark places.
Investigations can change how people see farmed animals, and they are also the most powerful tool we have to build up evidence to persuade companies and policymakers to make meaningful changes for animals.
Supermarkets in the UK play a huge role in the suffering of chickens. In fact, approximately 800 million chickens are slaughtered for sale in UK supermarkets every year. This is more than 80% of all chickens raised and killed for their flesh in the country.
British Chicken: The Truth About Accreditation Schemes
With animal welfare an increasing concern for the British public, many consumers put their trust in accreditation schemes to reassure them about their food choices.
Assurance or accreditation schemes are organisations that claim to carefully monitor where our food comes from and tell consumers through food labelling that the food they buy was ‘responsibly sourced’.
Red Tractor is the biggest and most recognised accreditation scheme in the UK, with around 50,000 British farmers accredited to its standards and 14 billion products carrying its logo. But what does the Red Tractor certification mean?
When it comes to chickens who are bred and killed for their flesh, Red Tractor-certified means that instead of the legal maximum stocking density (how many chickens are allowed to be crowded together) of 39kg of weight per square meter, individuals are kept at a maximum of 38kg per square-metre – just one kilogram less – which is like adding roughly the space of a post-it note to the A4 piece of paper each chicken has.
But that’s not all. Animal Equality has investigated 25 chicken and pig farms accredited by Red Tractor and we have consistently found farms breaking the standards that Red Tractor sets, as well as breaking the law.
As a global organisation, our mission is to investigate and expose the truth about the animal agriculture industry everywhere in the world.
Every year, globally, an estimated 50 billion chickens are slaughtered for food – a staggering number which doesn’t even include individuals who are killed at the hands of the egg industry.
We have investigated several chicken farms around the world, demonstrating how the cruelty to which these innocent animals are subjected knows no boundaries.
Regardless of the country they are bred and killed in, chickens suffer greatly from overcrowded conditions, unnatural growth and other abuses in an industry that cruelly values their entire life based solely on their market value.
Suffering Inside A Spanish Chicken Farm
Cruelty Exposed Inside A German Chicken Farm
More About British Chicken
What Can You Do To Help Chickens?
The best way to help chickens and all farmed animals is opting to eat plant-based food instead of animal products. Never before have plant-based alternatives been so accessible, as all major supermarkets’ fill their shelves with more and more delicious animal-friendly options.
If you are looking for something to do right now, with a simple click you can join us in demanding that the UK Government puts into place stricter and more regular inspections inside farms and slaughterhouses.
Demand the Government holds animal abusers accountable - SIGN NOW!
Over an 11 year period, Animal Equality UK has investigated 43 farms and slaughterhouses, finding prolonged animal suffering, deliberate abuse or neglect, and/or illegality taking place every single time. Animal Equality’s evidentiary footage, spanning over a decade, is a growing indictment of this failing industry.
The Government must work with Animal Equality to put in place critical changes to the legal framework, including the following:
Implement a licensing system for farms;
Breaches of licences will result in non renewal and prosecution;
Inspections required for licence renewal which will be at least every 1-3 years, depending on the farm’s size;
Those inspections must be robust and occasionally unannounced;
Appropriate penalties for all farms found not complying with their licences and the law.
Laws are broken time and time again. On every pig farm Animal Equality UK has ever visited pigs have been routinely tail-docked; over a six year period we visited four dairy farms and on each we found severe animal suffering and illegality; and in a sheep slaughterhouse we discovered a Food Standards Agency inspector giving their nod of approval for clear non-compliance. Our investigators have looked into facilities accredited by Red Tractor, Quality Meat Scotland, Best Aquaculture Practices, The Soil Association and more, documenting illegality across the board.
This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. With over 300,000 slaughterhouses in the UK, it is not possible for Animal Equality to visit every single facility. How many animals will suffer the same cruelty behind closed doors?
The public puts its faith in accreditation schemes, awards and Government and local authorities, but consumers are being conned.
Public body inspections are few and far between. With fewer than 3% of farms being inspected each year, crimes to farmed animals are rarely detected.
Non-compliance is rife. Where inspections do occur, 31% identify non-compliance with animal welfare regulations and inspectors directly observe animals suffering ‘unnecessarily’ in one in 30 visits to uncertified farms.
Consequences are all but non-existent. When wrongdoing is detected it is too often left to the charities to apply the necessary pressure and ensure action is taken. Between 2017-2019 there were 80 convictions of cruelty to farmed animals under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, compared to 2,662 for dogs. Considering that over one billion animals are farmed and slaughtered each year in the UK, this number of convictions is extremely low. This lack of action is failing to disincentivise legal violations on farms.
The Government and local authorities must end their overreliance on charities, take ownership, and hold animal abusers accountable for their actions. The current regulatory framework is a wholly inadequate safeguard to ensure legal compliance. It is simply not fit for purpose. Already vulnerable farmed animals are being left at the whims of an industry that wants only to commoditise them.
We, the undersigned, are calling for improved monitoring and enforcement of existing animal welfare laws and for increased legal protections to be put in place for farmed land and aquatic animals.
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Our brave investigators work incredibly hard to expose animal abuse so that, together, we can end it. Make a donation today to help keep them in the field.