RSPCA joins judicial review of broiler chickens
"We have long had serious concerns about the welfare of fast-growing breeds of meat chickens." – Kate Parkes.
The case will challenge the Government on fast-growing breeds.

The RSPCA has announced that it will provide evidence at a forthcoming judicial review of the legality of intensive chicken farming.

The charity has been given permission by Mr Justice Bourne to act as an intervener in the review, allowing the RSPCA to contribute evidence to the High Court as it decides whether the use of fast-growing breeds is contrary to existing legislation.

The review, to be heard in May, has been brought by The Humane League UK which argues that intensive chicken farming breaches the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007.

According to the legislation: ‘Animals may only be kept for farming purposes if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of their genotype or phenotype, that they can be kept without any detrimental effect on their health or welfare.’

Broiler chickens, which have been bred to grow quickly, can experience health issues as they gain weight including lameness, hockburn, breast muscle disease, and higher mortality owing to ill health compared to slower-growing breeds.

Defra, the defendant in the case, has argued that it has no policy which permits or condones the use of fast-growing chickens.

The RSPCA has been a long-standing opponent of the use of fast-growing breeds. It has backed the Better Chicken Commitment, which encourages retailers to improve welfare standards in their supply chain, and the use of fast-growing breeds is prohibited under the RSPCA Assured scheme.

The charity also produced a report in 2020 on welfare issues in the chicken farming industry, titled: ‘Eat. Sit. Suffer. Repeat: The Life of a Typical Meat Chicken.’

Kate Parkes, an RSPCA poultry expert, said: “We have long had serious concerns about the welfare of fast-growing breeds of meat chickens. The strain of growing at such a rate to fulfil the demand for cheap, readily available chicken, means that by the end of their short lives, these fast-growing birds are less able to exhibit their natural behaviours such as foraging, dust bathing and perching and instead spend most of their lives sitting and eating, less able to move around.

“The RSPCA is pleased that we’ve been granted permission to act as an intervener in this groundbreaking case as our research clearly shows the welfare issues associated with these breeds are unacceptable.”