Media release: Dead and dying chickens – investigative NZ footage exposes ‘business as usual’

Footage obtained by Farmwatch investigators, aired on RNZ Checkpoint yesterday
(16.11.21) shows chickens in pain, struggling to walk, and others whose legs have collapsed under their fast-growing bodies. These chickens were on a free-range chicken meat farm in South Auckland.

When chickens can’t stand, they are unable to access the water and feed available. These severely lame birds will die of thirst unless they are caught and killed by a worker. The chickens were found and filmed lying next to dead birds, rotting on the floor of the shed.

Marianne Macdonald, Executive Director of Animals Aotearoa said, “These shocking scenes are sadly ‘business as usual’ in the chicken meat industry. The same could be seen on any industrial chicken meat farm in New Zealand.”

The suffering of chickens bred for meat is a direct consequence of the Cobb and Ross
breeds farmed by the New Zealand industry. These breeds grow so explosively fast, they double in size every week, to be killed at around six weeks old. According to government figures, this rapid growth results in up to a third being painfully lame.

With 118 million birds farmed a year, that equates to approximately 39 million lame chickens, each year.

Macdonald continues, “The massive scale of lameness and suffering in chickens, is an animal welfare disaster. This is a direct result of an industry that is prioritising economic outcomes, with no regard for animal welfare.”

“What is even more shocking, is that this is a shed of chickens which will be sold as
free-range to unwitting customers who will pay more, and for what?” adds Macdonald. “This video shows that free-range standards are virtually meaningless.”

Animals Aotearoa is working to stop the worst suffering of chickens bred for meat, by
pushing food businesses to move to slower-growing, healthier breeds and better living conditions.

“When we looked at how to help chickens, everything came back to the fast-grow breeds. What we are asking for is completely feasible. New Zealand is lagging behind comparative countries where businesses are committed to slower-growing breeds and ensuring much better living conditions for chickens. The chicken meat producers in New Zealand can do the same.”

Background information:

The footage was obtained by Farmwatch volunteer investigators and handed to Animals Aotearoa.

‘Broiler’ is the chicken industry term for chickens bred for meat. They are of very different breeds from the hens used for egg production. (The latter are called ‘layer hens’ by the poultry industry.)

118,703,000 chickens bred for meat were processed in 2020 in Aotearoa.

The Ministry for Primary Industries lameness report (p14) states that up to one-third of chickens bred for meat have difficulty walking.

More information about chickens bred for meat.

Overseas, more than 400 overseas commitments have been made by food businesses shifting to slower-growing, healthier breeds and other welfare improvements for the ‘Broiler chickens’ in their supply chains.

The Better Chicken Commitment is a set of world-leading standards to significantly improve the lives of chickens bred for meat.

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