Animal charity The Humane League UK has been given the green light to appeal on all grounds against a High Court decision which said the UK government had acted lawfully in allowing the use of fast-growing broilers.
The organisation has been arguing that the use of the broiler breeds breaches the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 (WOFAR), which states farmed animals can’t be kept if their genes cause them suffering.
The Right Honourable Lord Justice Wiliam Davis said when granting the appeal: “There is a legitimate argument to the contrary (of the High Court decision) which needs to be considered by the court.”
Sean Gifford, managing director of The Humane League UK, welcomed the ruling: “The court only grants an appeal if there is a very real prospect of success, and we are thrilled our legal challenge will have this day in court. What hangs in the balance are the lives of 1 billion thinking, feeling chickens who are forced to endure the cruellest practice in modern farming.”
Gifford added: “Fast-growing ‘Frankenchickens’, whose short lives are plagued by illness, suffering and despair, have been let down by the law. While the government has abandoned almost every single one of its animal welfare pledges, this appeal, if successful, could legally force them to end the greatest animal welfare crisis of our time.”
Animal welfare organisations say the fast-growing broilers can suffer from a wide range of health and welfare issues, including heart attacks, lameness, green muscle disease, hock burns and organ failure. Around 1 billion birds per year are produced in this way, making up 90% of UK broiler production.
The Humane League UK was backed by Advocates for Animals. Edie Bowles, managing director and solicitor for The Humane League UK in the case, said the judge had recognised that the interpretation of the law carried immense significance.
Kate Parkes, RSPCA poultry expert, added that the issue of fast-growing breeds was one of the largest animal welfare issues of the day: “We know from extensive research that fast-growing breeds of chicken fundamentally do not have a life worth living because of the severe health and welfare issues they suffer from, so we’re pleased to support this case and hope we can help to make a huge difference to the lives of these animals.
“In the meantime, we also urge the public to lobby supermarkets to sign-up to the Better Chicken Commitment, which demands slower growing breeds, more space, natural light and enrichment, less painful slaughter methods and third-party auditing.”
Defra has challenged the claims, insisting there is no scientific proof that fast-growing birds suffer health problems as a matter of course.