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Eurogroup calls for urgent and strict EU rules on breeding of farm animal

Brussels, 28 July 2010

Eurogroup calls for urgent and strict EU rules on breeding of farm animals

Eurogroup welcomes the report published today by the European Food Standards

Authority (EFSA) which again confirms our concerns related to the widespread welfare problems associated with the breeding of chickens. The report highlights the need for the European Union to regulate the breeding of animals used for food production and Eurogroup urges the Commission to take action immediately.

Eurogroup was already extremely disappointed in 2007 when the EU adopted legislation on the keeping of broiler chickens which failed to include rules on the breeding and treatment of parent stock and this report confirms our worst fears. Over the years the breeding and genetic selection of animals has been focused on producing more meat, more quickly. Chickens have been continually genetically selected to grow faster, from taking four months to reach maturity in 1950 to only one month today. This extremely fast growth and the increased weight of the birds themselves places a very high toll on the animals' welfare and health which results in many animals dying and suffering unnecessarily.

EFSA scientists identify clearly several major factors which show that chicken breeding in Europe is also a very sad ordeal for the birds involved.

The problems identified are:

- Excessive growth rates: The birds grow so rapidly and to such an extent that they can no longer move freely and carry their own weight resulting in lameness and other painful injuries.

- Severe painful mutilations without pain relief; toes, spurs and combs are routinely cut off without proof that these are necessary or beneficial to the chickens or their welfare

- Barren environments: Broiler birds need their environment to provide security and comfort and this is ignored

- Stocking density: broiler birds need space to move and perch and this is not provided. This severely affects their behaviour patterns and encourages the spread of disease

- Restricted food supply; this is designed to prevent growing too fast but leads to competition for food resulting in injury and continual hunger for the birds

- Slaughter processes: birds are being hung upside down on slaughter lines that are unsuitable for the size of the birds which often weigh 3 to 4 kg and this create additional, stress injuries and a painful death for the birds.

"This report presents a catalogue of suffering for the birds from birth to the slaughterhouse. This suffering is hidden and far away from the eyes of the consumer. The industry can no longer claim that it cares for the welfare of their animals if they allow this to happen and they can no longer act in such a cavalier manner," stated Eurogroup's director Sonja Van Tichelen.

"If industry cannot take its responsibilities seriously it is the duty of the EU to regulate the breeding companies and enforce better standards. We therefore urge the European Commission to propose legislation as soon as possible which includes all animal breeding practices for food production, as this has been neglected so far, and it is the very point where welfare problems start," she concluded.

For more information, contact:

Eurogroup's Executive Officer Communications Martyn Griffiths via e-mail: (m.griffiths@eurogroupforanimals.org) or telephone +32 2 740 08 23. Outside of office hours, contact: +32 487 645 486.

Notes to editor:

Eurogroup for Animals represents animal welfare organisations in all EU Member States. Since its launch in 1980, the organisation has succeeded in encouraging the EU to adopt higher legal standards for animal protection. Eurogroup represents public opinion through its membership organisations across the Union, and has both the scientific and technical expertise to provide authoritative advice on issues relating to animal welfare. For more information, visit www.eurogroupforanimals.org .

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