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New study reveals true scale of cruelty of chicken farming

9 October 2013

A new study has revealed the horrific cruelty of chicken farming for meat in New Zealand. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) report shows that two thirds of birds have leg problems, in some cases meaning they are unable to walk at all. Perhaps most shocking of all, the report states that more than 2 million chickens die every year from disease and health problems. 

MPI, the Government department conflictingly charged with animal welfare and promotion of the economic growth of New Zealand farming, released the report just days after submissions closed on the review of the Animal Welfare Act.

The study of 20 farms details:

2/3 of chickens are unable to walk properly. Birds were found to have such bad leg problems that their ability to move around was affected, in some case they were unable to walk at all.

• Over 2 million birds die each year before they even reached slaughter weight (6 weeks old). Of those, 65 percent were birds found dead, 9.2 percent were killed due to leg problems and 25.9 percent were killed for other problems.

· Problems described include joint infections, twisted legs and femoral head necrosis.

· None of the farms surveyed provided the chickens with any behavioural enrichment devices.

· 100% of farms routinely use antibiotics in chickens feed.

Campaign director Eliot Pryor says, "This study provides proof that many consumers will be eating severely crippled chicken in their next meal. It is truly appalling that this cruelty is allowed to continue. SAFE is calling on the Government to use the review of the Animal Welfare Act to introduce meaningful change for the millions of suffering meat chickens."

SAFE believes that once people become aware that chickens raised for meat suffer just as much as battery hens and pigs in crates many will choose to no longer support this cruelty. "A consumer boycott is the only effective way to end this suffering," says Mr Pryor.

Download the report

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17 August 2013

A vigil was held in Auckland by SAFE on 17 August to commemorate the millions of New Zealand chickens that suffer short and brutal lives when raised for meat. 90 animal activists each held a body of a dead chicken representing the 90 million birds killed every year in this country. The eye-catching vigil was part of SAFE's Stop Factory Farming month.

Meat chickens have been selectively bred for fast growth and reach slaughter weight at only six weeks of age. This has created a genetic freak that suffers from major health problems such as lameness, leg weakness, heart disease and sudden death syndrome.

A genetic horror

"On New Zealand farms nearly 10,000 chickens die of disease every single day," says SAFE Executive Director Hans Kriek. "Many of these chickens are so badly crippled that they can't reach food or water and succumb to hunger and thirst."

"Due to the unnatural genetic make up of the bird, there is currently no commercially produced chicken product on the market that could be described as humane," says Mr Kriek.

Emmett Skilton 

Emmett Skilton of TV show Almighty Johnsons participated in the vigil. "As much as I didn't want to hold a dead animal in my hands, I took part because these animals need our help. Our abhorrent treatment of chickens sends chills down my spine and nearly gets me in tears. It is up to us, the consumers, to speak up for those who cannot and stop factory farming."

The bodies of the chickens were collected from farms in the Auckland region and all died from disease and other health problems. After the vigil the chickens' bodies were buried in a ceremony at an animal sanctuary and a memorial garden planted.

Boycott all chicken products

SAFE believes that once people become aware that chickens raised for meat suffer just as much as battery hens and pigs in crates many will choose no longer to support this cruelty. "A consumer boycott is the only effective way to end this suffering," says Mr Kriek.

Don't be in the dark Stop Factory farming August 2013

TVNZ news

TV3 news

TVNZ footage

Vigil photos: SAFE Facebook

Real footage from a New Zealand chicken farm

Check out the infographic

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Crippled and dying

10 December 2012

Viewers have been shocked by undercover images screened on One News showing birds crippled and unable to walk. ONE News reported on the largely unknown cruelty surrounding the production of chickens reared for meat.

While the report linked the dying birds to the use of drugs given to the birds, the main cause of suffering for these birds are poor genetics that make them grow much faster than a normal chicken. The farm shown is a typical New Zealand meat chicken operation and unfortunately not unusual. Up to 40,000 birds are kept in a windowless shed, spending their lives in intense confinement and never seeing the light of day.

One News reported that New Zealand chickens are routinely fed antibiotics to prevent diseases that spread rapidly in these overcrowded conditions. The routine feeding of antibiotics to animals promotes resistance genes in bacteria in the animals' guts that can spread to human bacteria causing more antibiotic- resistance infections in humans.

Many people are still unaware of the true horrors of this industry. Chickens put on weight abnormally quickly which causes health problems leading to nearly 10,000 dying every day in New Zealand before they even reach ‘slaughter weight' at six weeks of age. Find out more

Over 99% of chickens are factory farmed in New Zealand, and although free range birds may have better conditions, they are from the same poor breeding stock, so many welfare problems remain.


Chickens being fed antibiotics

7 Dec 2012

ONE News Exclusive footage of a covert filming operation at a New Zealand chicken meat factory shows chickens barely able to walk.

No end to chicken suffering as genetic horror continues

August 2012

Chickens bred for meat in New Zealand have been let down by a new code of welfare which continues to allow cruel practices and poor genetics of the birds, says SAFE.

Campaign director Eliot Pryor says SAFE is very disappointed with the limited scope of the just-released code for chickens raised for meat, referred to as broilers by producers. He says, "Chickens bred for their meat are among the worst-treated animals in the food industry, enduring short and brutal lives, and this new code will not improve their welfare in any meaningful way.

Meat chickens are selectively bred for fast growth and high meat production, reaching adult size in just six weeks. The chickens' fast growth leads to severe stress and pain to their legs and hips, affecting their ability to walk. Read more


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