Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers federal policy developments in conservation, natural resources, wildlife, and animal welfare.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
FEDERAL FACT: In October 2014, nearly 800 million chickens were slaughtered in the United States. (USDA). Annually, the industry uses 1.2 billion bushels of corn, 500 million bushels of soybeans, and 55 million tons of mixed seed as feed (National Chicken Council).
The Truth about Chicken Farms: We all know that mass livestock production is riddled with problems, including inhumane treatment of animals. And, the exclusion of birds from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) complicates chances of correcting horrific treatment for excluded animals (and the Poultry Products Inspection Act does not cover humane treatment of animals in the same way). This is a serious problem in a country that slaughters over 8 billion chickens each year. Sadly, the Secretary of Agriculture has chosen to not include chickens under the HMSA.
Many groups oppose the mind-numbing inhumane treatment of chickens in the US. A Perdue contract farmer released a video – in connection with Compassion in World Farming’s “Better Chicken Initiative” – that demonstrates the horrifying conditions of a modern chicken farm. A prime example of Orwellian “progress” in livestock production are the chickens look sickly and have been bred to an unnatural state that dramatically reduces their mobility. The National Chicken Council response to the video reveals, perhaps unwittingly, the truth of these damaging practices, blaming the farmer for not euthanizing animals that likely result at a higher rate because of the factory-farming induced conditions more frequently and statements from the experts like:
“The genetic stock of broilers shown in the video have been bred for rapid growth rate and increased breast meat yields. These modern strains of broilers are physiologically and genetically distant from their ancestor, the Red Jungle Fowl. Not only have their genetics and physiology changed, but the behavior of these rapidly growing lines of broiler chickens has also been altered…. Genetically selecting broilers for rapid growth and broad breast has led to a more inactive chicken.”
“Broiler chickens today have a different feathering pattern. Also, because broilers rest with their breasts in contact with the bedding, this contact and associated friction can cause feather loss (similar to loss of hair on arms and legs of humans at contact points).”
“Improvements in feed efficiency have inconsequently led to more inactive chickens with more muscle as compared to the heritage lines of chickens. When these fast-growing genetic lines of chickens are given access to pasture and their growth rate is slowed down through diet manipulation, they still spend the majority of their time sitting.”
(In response to not allowing the birds outdoor access – exposure to sunlight or fresh air)
“I believe the company that provides the chicks knows that there are disadvantages to outdoor access including higher mortality due to inclement weather, predators, and exposure to disease from other animals such as waterfowl potentially carrying the avian influenza virus.”
As a Nation, we need to reform the treatment of animals to prevent inhumane practices, including breeding of animals with unnatural traits, and create a system with no inadvertently toxic conditions for animals – including safe, comfortable housing, and proper slaughter techniques that cause no additional pain. As Paul McCartney said “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”