How to revise the Broiler Directive: science and best corporate practices lead the way to improve the lives of broiler chickens
19 November 2020
Today a groundbreaking new report was launched presenting the first comprehensive scientific overview on the welfare of broiler chickens. Science and best corporate practices show improvements are feasible, urgent and should inform future EU legislation.
For immediate release: Brussels 19/11/2020
On November 19th, the Intergroup on the welfare and conservation of animals organised the event From minimum legal standards to “good lives” What needs to change for broiler chickens in the EU?
Broiler chickens are the most numerous terrestrial farmed animals in the EU: 7.4 billion were slaughtered in 2018, of which the vast majority coming from intensive farming systems. While minimum standards for the protection of broiler chickens are laid down in various pieces of EU legislation, the current rules are clearly insufficient to guarantee broiler chicken welfare as they fail to address the main problems that are intrinsic to the industry.
The European Commission is going to propose a revision of the current animal welfare acquis as part of the EU Farm to Fork strategy, and this meeting presented the science and practices that can inspire new standards for higher-welfare broiler chicken rearing. We asked six independent researchers to present the available scientific evidence on the welfare issues experienced by broiler chickens, from breeding to slaughter: a comprehensive report, launched during the event, entitled The welfare of broiler chickens in the EU: from science to action.
The report co-authors also shared their ideas for the future of broiler chicken farming in a short publication entitled A vision for the future broiler farming.
Policy makers will need to have answers and see concrete solutions to propose new science-based legislation fit for purpose and for the future. What needs to change to give broiler chickens good lives? The report, first of its kind, presents concrete science-based solutions: using slower-growing higher-welfare breeds, providing the right rearing environment, protecting parent birds and newly hatched chicks, best practices around transport and slaughter, and including wider societal issues.
In the EU every year we rear billions of fast-growing broiler chickens. For the most part, these social, inquisitive and intelligent birds are deprived of the possibility to enjoy good welfare, let alone experience “good lives”. The science is clear, and this new report confirms that it is time to move to slower-growing breeds and higher welfare systems and to update relevant EU legislation. The coming years offer a very important window of opportunity for us MEPs to accelerate such change for broiler chickens and other farmed animals, thanks to the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy. I am personally committed to making this happen.
Anja Hazekamp MEP (GUE/NGL, NL), Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and President of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals
The economic and animal welfare benefits of adopting higher welfare rearing systems using slower-growing breeds are clear. This will require designing a successful supply chain and involving consumers in the transition, while also taking into account sustainability. The audience had the opportunity to virtually visit Nijkamp Farm, a state of the art facility for higher-welfare broiler rearing, and heard from its owner Robert Nijkamp how animal welfare can meet sustainability.
What we need is a paradigm shift, currently chicken is marketed as a cheap and ever-present commodity. As the report highlights, science and market opportunities make it possible to change the lives for broiler chickens. The Broiler Directive is not fit for purpose to make this happen, that’s why it should be revised to include breeding objectives for health and welfare, introduce animal welfare rules for broiler breeders, and improve rearing conditions for all broiler chickens.
Reinke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals