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The harsh reality behind chickens that are raised for human consumption

The harsh reality behind chickens that are raised for human consumption

The NGO World Animal Protection, concerned about the terrible conditions in which chickens are raised during their short lives, demands that fast food companies commit to the welfare of these animals.

Chickens have lived with us for over 5,000 years and can be curious and busy creatures that love to dig, explore, peck, and dust baths. Studies show that chickens are capable of experiencing empathy, pain, and stress. But sadly, millions of them live crammed and inhospitable, deprived of natural light on factory farms.

Currently, it is estimated that each year, 40 billion chickens around the world live in cruel conditions on these types of farms. They are only around 40 days old before being slaughtered (that is, when they are still practically babies). During that time, they inhabit tight, dark spaces and are raised with little, if any, consideration as living animals. In addition, they are genetically selected to develop at an abnormally fast rate, which puts great pressure on their heart, lungs and legs. As a result, they live their entire lives with chronic pain, lesions on their skin and legs, and even heart failure.

Despite knowing this reality, the chicken that is consumed in large fast food chains such as KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King, comes from these shady places. Therefore, the global organization World Animal Protection, investigates the welfare of chickens that are raised for human consumption.

To this end, the NGO has created the "Ranking of companies on the welfare of chickens" as part of its Change for Chickens campaign, which challenges the fast food industry to stop cruelty and suffering in chicken meat production around the world, as well as sourcing from farms that ensure the welfare of animals, rather than farms industrial.

This ranking classifies the performance of fast food restaurants against their commitment, ambition and transparency in the welfare of chickens, and the results have revealed some alarming findings. The welfare standards of many of these companies have been found to be worryingly low, meaning that consumers are inadvertently buying products from animals living in conditions of cruelty and suffering.

Unworthy living conditions

Broilers are raised to suffer. As if what was recently said were not enough, we can add that the cages in which they live severely restrict their freedom and natural behavior. They are often stacked on top of each other, making it impossible for these intelligent animals to carry out natural behaviors such as exploring, dust bathing, or perching on high ground.

Cages are characterized by overcrowding, lack of natural light, and rapid growth rate and fattening, leading to stress, lameness, and disease., to the point that some chickens are too sick to stand up.

And yet most of the birds served in these restaurants come from places like these, but despite this, many companies are showing no intention to improve the reality of these animals.


What is asked of companies

The bell Change for Chickens World Animal Protection is pushing the food industry to commit to making global policy changes that will improve the welfare of billions of chickens. In particular, companies are expected to:

  • Use chicken breeds that have more natural growth rates.
  • Ensure chickens have spaces to behave more naturally. The cages must be disposed of and never used again.
  • Give chickens the opportunity to enjoy natural behavior through enrichment strategies such as raised platforms, parapicotean objects, natural light, and quality shelters.
  • Ensure chickens are slaughtered by more humane methods that avoid shackles and ensure that they are unconscious prior to slaughter.

Now, how to assess if a company is fulfilling its commitment to source chickens that come from farms where animal welfare is practiced?

Companies are evaluated through public information available in three areas:

  • Commitment. Policies clearly state that animal welfare is important to the company.
  • Ambition: A defined schedule that shows the objectives, goals and promises that the company has drawn up to improve the living conditions of the chickens and when they will fulfill them.
  • Transparency. Through their performance reports, and how clear the organization is when it comes to keeping its wellness promises.

Among the companies evaluated by World Animal Protection are: Burger King, Domino’s Pizza Group, Domino’s Inc, KFC, McDonald’s, Nando’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Subway. Key findings from the 2020 Chicken Welfare Companies Rankings are:

  • Domino’s Inc received a score of '0', indicating that they have no interest in the welfare of the chickens.
  • Four companies (Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino’s plc[1] and Domino’s Inc[2]) were rated very poorly.
  • Commitments are not being fulfilled fast enough. More than 160 companies in the world have joined the Better Chicken Commitment, but two-thirds of these evaluated companies have not fulfilled it.
  • Commitments have been limited to the United States, Canada, and a small number of European countries, so greater international reach is crucial.
  • Only four companies report the results of some indicators on broilers, but none report on the performance of the general welfare of the animals. This complicates the task of holding them accountable for their commitments.
  • Only a third (three out of nine) of the companies evaluated received a score higher than 'poor', which means that many continue to fail in their commitments.
  • Only one company, KFC, was classified in the 'progressing' category, as they are now part of the BetterChicken Commitment. This commitment includes the use of slower growing breeds of chickens, the creation of places with more light for the animals, and spaces that allow them to have a more natural behavior.

As can be seen in the table above, the results show that, in some places in Europe, KFC has risen from the fourth place it was last year, to being the company with the highest advances in the “Ranking of companies on the welfare of chickens” (Pecking Order 2020). This shows that progress is possible, but that there is still much to be done to improve. Unfortunately, Pizza Hut and Burger King have dropped considerably in the ranking.

While it is encouraging to see companies like KFC begin to take chicken welfare seriously, the results remain extremely worrying. This shows that most companies have a long way to go to give these animals a better life.

There is still much to do

Jonty Whittleton, Global Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection argues that:

“Tens of billions of birds never have the opportunity to see sunlight, or grow in a healthy environment where they can behave naturally. Rather, their lives are often full of pain, fear, and stress. There is no excuse; These big companies have the power to end the suffering they are causing these animals, at the cost of their profits.

“Hats off to KFC, as it took a step forward for chickens in six European countries, but this is just the beginning. There is much more to do, and other companies have not made sufficient progress and, in other cases, have worsened their performance on this issue. Companies like Burger King are getting positive publicity for their meatless burgers and nuggets, but these developments shouldn't hide the suffering these animals endure on farms around the world, every day. ”

"Consumers are increasingly concerned about animal welfare, and we will continue to raise our voices for them and chickens to put pressure on these organizations for real change."

Food companies that continue to ignore this situation are under great pressure to change their methods. WorldAnimal Protection will review the PeckingOrder every year to monitor the progress of large fast food chains. The organization hopes that future changes in the ranking highlight the efforts of companies that are truly leading the way to better chicken welfare.

The NGO calls on these global companies to lead and ensure that the chickens that are served in their restaurants have a decent life. Companies evaluated in the "Chicken Welfare Companies Ranking" have a giant opportunity on their hands and can use its power to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of animals.

To learn more about this, visit: www.worldanimalprotection.org


[1] Worldwideminus USA and Canada

[2] USA and Canada

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