Germany: the suffering of the fattening turkeys

Although over 34 million turkeys were slaughtered in Germany in 2019, there are no special minimum legal requirements for keeping these animals.
Instead, the industry has imposed the so-calledvoluntary federal guide values on itself.
These vague guidelines only contain specific requirements for stocking densities, but these are far too high.


Other important aspects such as activity material or a run out are not specifically defined or are completely missing.
The consequences of keeping turkeys in accordance with these guidelines are usually serious animal welfare problems such as behavioral disorders and injuries.

For this reason, PROVIEH Organisation, together with the Alliance for Animal Welfare Policy, once again called on the federal government to finally introduce legal rules for keeping turkeys.

Behavioral disorders and injuries – turkeys are not adequately protected

One of the most serious problems in industrial turkey farming is the shortening of the tip of the beak.
This is done to mitigate injuries that can arise as a result of behavioral disorders such as feather pecking and cannibalism.
Although it has not yet been conclusively clarified scientifically what the complete causes of behavioral disorders are, it is clear that the poor housing conditions play a central role.

These include, for example, too large a group size, stocking density and lack of occupation of the animals.
In industrial farming, however, there is no upper limit to the group size of turkeys, which is why they are kept in the barn in the thousands.


Here, five female turkeys weighing 16 kilograms or three male turkeys weighing 20 kilograms have to share almost one square meter.
Cramped so closely and in such masses, the animals have no opportunity to develop a functioning social system. The lack of a fixed pecking order then leads to stress and aggression.
In addition, turkeys have an innate urge to peck and scratch for food. If this drive is not satisfied by sufficient activity material such as bales of straw and picking stones and a run, the animals peck each other instead.

Rather than seeking and resolving the causes of this behavior, the poultry industry routinely trims turkeys’ bills to prevent pecking injuries.
The beak is shortened using the infrared method without switching off pain in the first days of life, after one to two weeks the treated part of the beak falls off.
The tip of the beak is very sensitive and has nerves running through it, because the animals also use it as a tactile organ.
The shortening leads to chronic pain and lifelong impairment. The turkeys are not only prevented from harming each other by the pain, but also impaired in feeding and caring for their feathers.

There is an urgent need for action here to end this cruel practice. The poultry industry would have to make fundamental changes to its system for animal welfare.
Because even the simplest needs such as species-appropriate resting cannot be met in the current attitude.
Naturally, turkeys would fly on branches of trees at night to build up. Raised levels or perches are not stipulated in the national benchmarks for their posture.

However, poor housing conditions also have other negative consequences for the animals. The turkeys often run on the same moist litter until they are removed. This very often leads to the softening of the skin of the feet, which can penetrate particles and cause painful inflammation, the so-called ball of the foot. There is a similar problem with breast skin infections.

Due to the rapid growth and the enormous amount of chest muscles that the animals were bred for, leg misalignments and cardiovascular problems can also arise.

The turkey industry has been allowed to play by its self-imposed rules for too long.
We finally need legal husbandry conditions that are scientifically sound and enable animal welfare-friendly husbandry.

For an animal-friendly life, turkeys need lower stocking densities and small groups in which they can build up a social structure.
An outdoor run and a structured stable with activity material must be made available to them in order to exercise their own behavior.
In addition, extensive, slow-growing breeds should be used so that the animals can grow up healthy.

PROVIEH- Mareike Petersen
20/05/2021

And I mean…The overriding principle in industrial “farm” animal husbandry is: space and time are money.
That is why the life of turkeys living in Germany looks terrible. In this country, mass postures in confined spaces, shortened beaks, overbred animals and a lack of employment opportunities are the norm.

Around 34 million of these large chicken birds are kept here every year, almost 90 percent of them live on large farms with more than 10,000 conspecifics.

Through breeding selection, the “fattening turkey” today consists of around 40 percent breast meat. With fatal consequences: towards the end of the fattening period, the animals crouch with inflamed joints and crippled legs, painful and sick in their faeces.
Weeks before the slaughter date, most animals can barely move and only vegetate in the moist soil.

After being transported in narrow plastic boxes, they are usually anesthetized with CO2. Everything is done by machine, which is why many animals are often not properly anesthetized.
When fully conscious, they are hung upside down on a “slaughter tape”.
This moves the animals through the other machine stations: through a water bath, in which they receive an electric shock, and on to the neck-cutting machine, in which their carotid artery is severed. The bleeding begins immediately afterwards.

“Anyone who was not or not sufficiently anesthetized was unlucky”, says the turkey industry.
By the way, this usually happens often and the animals have to suffer terrible pain in silence until their heart finally stops beating.

The vast majority of turkey farmers are of course against national regulations. In May 2019, the Association of German Turkey Producers made it clear that it did not accept stricter standards in Germany.

The fact that there are still no specific legal requirements for keeping turkeys is a political scandal.
As always, the associations that exploit animals put their economic interests above the protection of animals.

And because in this country the meat mafia is in charge, politicians just join in and obey.

My best regards to all, Venus

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