It's Poultry Day and TIR would like to take this occasion to shed light on the insufficient legal protection for chickens
Around 65 million chickens are reared and slaughtered in Switzerland each year. In addition, according to official estimates, more than 1.5 billion eggs were consumed in Switzerland in 2018, setting a new record. Despite this horrendous figure, the conditions in which the animals are kept and killed hardly ever get any public attention. Animals in the poultry and egg industry are subjected to extremely harsh living conditions. Sadly, the authorities responsible for the enforcement of the animal welfare legislation still fail to give chickens the required level of attention.
March 19, 2019
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.
Also, Switzerland allows for about two million male chicks to be gassed or shredded on their first day of life because they are considered an unprofitable "by-product" of the egg industry. The animals are bred to lay eggs at an extremely high rate and tend to produce only little meat, which is why they are of little use to meat producers. This highly questionable practice in clearly contradicts the principle of animal dignity as laid down both in the Federal Constitution and the Animal Welfare Act. Killing chicks because they are considered useless for egg production constitutes a complete disregard for their intrinsic value. Nevertheless, this practice is permitted by the Animal Welfare Ordinance.
For years, TIR has been working on a political level, publishing articles and speaking at training events to counteract such contemptuous practices. Only if political decision-makers and the authorities are fully sensitized to the issue can a breakthrough for the concept of animal dignity actually be achieved.
In spring 2019, TIR will also publish a report on Swiss poultry farming and production conditions under BTS standards. BTS is a government label that stands for "Besonders Tierfreundliche Stallhaltungssysteme" and can be translated as "particularly animal-friendly housing systems". The TIR report concludes that the BTS standards do not ensure better living conditions for animals, but rather encourage torture breeding, i.e. the use of fast-growing broiler chickens. The consequences for the animals are fatal. The federal government has clearly failed to fulfill its constitutional obligation to promote nature-oriented and animal-friendly production methods.
Further information on German version of this news release.