TIR criticizes insufficient legal protection for poultry
Around 65 million chickens are raised and slaughtered in Switzerland every year. In addition, the number of eggs consumed by the Swiss reached a new record of 1.51 billion in 2017. Despite these horrendous numbers, the conditions under which the animals are kept and killed are rarely a matter of public concern. Especially in poultry breeding and husbandry as well as in the context of egg production, the worst excesses of livestock farming can be seen. Unfortunately, the authorities responsible for the enforcement of animal welfare legislation also frequently fail to pay the necessary attention to the plight of chickens.
March 29, 2018
High-performance breeding and conditions under which broiler chickens are kept often lead to painful joint injuries, ulcers, and inflammations in their feet. According to the poultry industry, up to four percent of the animals die before they are slaughtered. In addition, laying hens often suffer from bone fractures due to calcium deficiency as well as inflammations of the oviduct.
Animal welfare law stipulates, among other things, that animal owners must regularly check on the condition of their animals. Sick or injured animals must be immediately housed, cared for and treated or killed in a manner compliant with animal welfare standards depending on the condition they are in. However, when housing several thousand animals, it is hardly possible to fulfill the needs of each and every one of them. This is despite the fact that chickens are equally subject to animal welfare legislation as are all other vertebrates. Their well-being and dignity are protected just as much as those of dogs, cats or cattle.
Chickens are to be respected in their intrinsic value for their own sake and not to be treated as a mere commodity. That is why the Stiftung für das Tier im Recht (TIR) filed a criminal complaint against five poultry farms in February 2018 based on video material provided by the organization Tier im Fokus (see TIR news release from February 2, 2018).
In Switzerland, around two million male chicks are gassed or shredded right after hatching every year as they are considered "industrial waste" because they do not lay eggs and are therefore "worthless" to the producers. Because the animals are bred to lay a maximum amount of eggs and do not produce much meat they are not suited for fattening either. This highly questionable procedure inherent in egg production clearly contradicts the principle of animal dignity protection enshrined in the Federal Constitution and in the Animal Welfare Act. The act of killing day-old chicks as an unwanted byproduct constitutes a complete disregard for their intrinsic value. Nevertheless, the Animal Welfare Ordinance allows this practice.
For many years now, TIR has been fighting against such disdainful excesses of modern-day animal husbandry on a political level, through specialist publications, and by conducting training courses aimed at ensuring consistent enforcement of animal dignity protection. It is only when policy makers and authorities are sufficiently aware of the issue that the concept of animal dignity can truly be made reality.