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The life of a chicken is so horrendous, it’s a blessing that they are slaughtered at six weeks.

18th February 2024

talking about animals

 

THIS WEEK’S DISCUSSION

The life of a chicken is so horrendous, it’s a blessing that they are slaughtered at six weeks.

 

RATIONALE

Fifty years ago, the average chicken raised for meat was slaughtered at approximately 82 days; the slaughter age for fully grown chickens today is between 38 and 42 days.

The modern, factory-farmed chicken is selectively bred and genetically modified to produce bigger thighs and breasts.

A fully-grown chicken in a typical shed, or unit, will share each square metre of floor space with eighteen other birds. This translates to each individual chicken having the equivalent floor space of less than an A4 sheet of paper.

Broiler sheds are sterile places, with automatically-controlled lighting replacing natural light. The litter on the floor cannot be cleaned out until the chickens have been removed from the shed for slaughter. The droppings create an atmosphere dense with ammonia. This can damage the eyes of the birds, the respiratory systems, and can also cause painful hock burns on their legs, chests and feet.*


THE ANIMAL WELFARE SOLUTION

Take the foot off the race-to-the-bottom model of chicken farming, a model which is entirely focussed on the economy-of-scale principle.

Increase the space allowance per bird significantly.

Allow all birds ready access to fresh air and green spaces, with tree and shrub cover. They can practice some natural behaviours (pecking, scratching, foraging, exercise outdoors).

Because they grow slower and can exercise, free-range chickens do not suffer as much from brittle bone syndrome, and they are generally healthier animals, living a little longer, usually up to about 8 weeks.

Organic chickens grow at half the rate of chickens on intensive farms and they usually live for about 12 weeks.

 

THE ANIMAL RIGHTS POSITION

Animals are sensitive, emotional and intelligent beings who deserve dignity and respect.

Animal rights are moral principles grounded in the belief that non-human animals deserve the ability to live as they wish, without being subjected to the desires of human beings.

We do not have the right, therefore, to raise and kill animals for any reason, including as a food source. Let chickens live as their wild ancestors lived, outdoors, in small social groupings. Let them have their dignity, their freedom, their lives. This is the animal rights position, in brief.

 

I'm happy to discuss this issue on air, also more than willing to debate with an industry representative. 

 

Gerry Boland

founder of and spokesperson for Animals Behind Closed Doors, advocating for appropriate rights for animals and for a vegan lifestyle.

087-6397557  

 

SOME THINGS YOU MAY OR MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT CHICKENS

CHICKENS love a bath and from a young age are naturally drawn to dust bathing to keep their feathers clean.

THEY form strong friendships, recognising over 100 individual faces, both of other chickens as well as humans.

THEY can see a broader range of colours than humans.

THEY have 24 distinct vocalisations, including different calls to warn against various types of predators.

MALES use a special call to females when they have some food to share but have also been shown to trick females by using the same call, even when they have no food.

DOMESTIC chickens originate from Asia, and are descendants of the wild Junglefowl.

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

CHICKENS SPEND MUCH OF THEIR TIME lying down because their legs are not strong enough to support their heavy body weights. Many of them suffer from painful leg disorders. The unnaturally rapid growth puts a strain on their hearts and lungs. Although they are very young birds, they suffer from extreme fatigue. As they get older, they spend less time performing natural behaviours such as walking, pecking, scratching the litter and perching, and more time sitting and eating. Birds with mobility problems are less able to compete for food and water and are likely to suffer injury, malnutrition and dehydration. Lame birds spend between 80% and 90% of their time lying down and can go without water for days. Broiler chickens frequently suffer from heart failure.

 

AFTER ABOUT 40 DAYS, chickens reach the 'target weight’ for slaughter. Typically, catchers walk through the sheds at night grabbing birds, usually by one leg, and carrying them, in bunches of four or five, to where they cram them into crates which are then stacked onto a truck. Catchers are under pressure from their employers to get as many birds as possible caught and crated in as short a time as possible. Many of the birds already have fractures and dislocations and this process adds significantly to their pain. In some production facilities, the chickens are picked up using a catching machine. A catching machine can pick up around nine thousand chickens per hour.

 

ONCE ON THE TRUCK, the chickens, who have spent their entire lives in dimly-lit sheds, are exposed to completely new stress triggers: traffic noise, high temperatures, low temperatures, the movement of the truck. Some will die during transportation due to rough handling or due to heat stroke if the truck ventilation is poor and the temperatures outside are high. Other causes of death include heart failure, trauma and blood loss due to haemorrhaging into dislocated hip joints, itself a result of the rough catching process.

 

WHEN THE TRUCKS ARRIVE at the slaughterhouse, chickens are pulled from the crates and shackled upside down by their feet into metal stirrups on an overhead conveyor. The conveyor carries them into the killing room where their heads pass through an electrified water bath. This is how they are stunned. As they pass along further, an automatic knife cuts their throat. The next step in this journey is the scalding tank, which loosens their feathers before plucking. That’s the theory; the reality can be much different. Some birds lift their heads and miss the electrified water bath and are therefore fully conscious when they reach the automatic knife. Some birds avoid the knife and are lowered into the 50-degree scalding tank while still alive. 

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