The fact that chickens are sentient and capable of suffering is largely ignored in the conventional egg and meat industry. The images of healthy chickens living in small groups happily pecking away outdoors as depicted in commercials and on product packaging simply does not reflect the reality of most animals: The vast majority of the almost eleven million chickens in Switzerland are crammed by the thousands – up to 27'000 in their first 28 days of life and up to 18'000 after their 43rd day of life, to be precise – into windowless sheds.
High-performance breeding and the husbandry conditions frequently lead to painful joint damage as well as foot ulcers and infections in broiler chickens. According to the poultry industry itself, up to 4% of the chicken population is expected to die of various causes, like injury, illness, etc., prior to slaughter. Laying hens, for example, often suffer bone fractures due to calcium deficiency and are prone to inflammation of the fallopian tubes.
According to the animal welfare legislation, animal keepers are required, among other things, to regularly check the condition and state of health of the animals under their care. Sick or injured animals must immediately receive proper housing, care and treatment or be killed in a manner conforming with animal welfare regulations. The animal welfare legislation applies as much to chickens as it does to all other vertebrates. Their wellbeing and dignity are equally protected as are those of dogs, cats, and cows, which is why chickens must be respected for their own sake in their intrinsic value and are not to be treated as mere commodities. When housing several thousand animals together, however, it is virtually impossible to meet the needs of every single individual.
That is why, in February 2018, the Stiftung für das Tier im Recht (TIR)
filed criminal charges against four broiler poultry farms on the basis
of video material published by the organization Tier im Fokus (TIF) (see
TIR news release of February 2, 2018). The public prosecutor's offices
both in the canton of Fribourg and in the canton of Berne determined
that the footage in the videos reflects the reality of current poultry
On the basis of of this tragic fact they concluded that
there were no apparent infringements of animal welfare provisions and
the case was shelved.