ARCHIVE: Animal welfare: Welfare of meat chickens
The welfare of meat chickens is protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 under which it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal. The Act also contains a Duty of Care to animals – this means that anyone responsible for an animal must take reasonable steps to make sure the animal’s needs are met. This means that a person has to look after an animal’s welfare as well as ensure that it does not suffer.
These general requirements are supplemented by detailed requirements set out in the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007 No 2078) as amended by the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment)Regulations 2010 (SI 2010 No3033). This includes infotrmation for keepers on how to notify Animal Health of an intention to stock above 33kg/m2 and how to apply for Grandfather rights. The 2010 Regualtions amended the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 on 23 December 2010. Schedule 1 of the 2007 Regulations sets down requirements applicable to all animals, including all meat chickens, and contains specific requirements concerning the provision of, for example, water, accommodation and food. A new Schedule 5A has been added by the 2010 Regulations which implements Council Driective 2007/43. This lays down minimum rules for the protection of chickens which are conetnionally reared for meat production.
- There is a Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of meat chickens, which contains advice for stock-keepers on best husbandry practice. There are a limited number of copies available which can be requested from Defra publications. The existing Code continues to apply under the new Animal Welfare Act, but with the introduction of the Act and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 (as amended), the references to the legislation throughout the code are now out of date.
- Welfare codes are not law, but failure to follow their provisions may be used as evidence in court when a prosecution is taken for causing unnecessary suffering to livestock;
- The Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of meat chickens is under review. Interim guidance is available.
Animal Health carries out welfare inspections on farms to check that the legislation and the welfare codes are being followed. In addition to spot checks and planned visits, Animal Health urgently follows up all complaints and allegations of poor welfare on specific farms.
Where welfare problems are found, Animal Health usually gives advice or warnings to farmers which, in most cases, results in satisfactory improvements being made. However, where necessary, Defra initiates prosecution action against farmers, sometimes in co-operation with local authorities and/or the RSPCA.
Animal Health can be contacted via your local Animal Health Office.
Advisory leaflets and campaigns
Defra funds ADAS, an agricultural consultancy, to run campaigns to inform farmers about good welfare practices.
Details of current campaigns are available.
Page last modified:
19 January, 2011
Page published: 5 August, 2002