And they’re off! More than 72,000 signatures have been collected and delivered to the National Chicken Council urging the trade association to incorporate slower-growing birds and better living conditions into their chicken welfare guidelines.
“Our goal was to reach 50,000 signatures, and we’ve far surpassed that,” says Suzanne McMillan, the ASPCA’s Director of Farm Animal Welfare. “This sends a clear message that people care about the way chickens are treated, and they are standing with us to demand change.”
It’s no surprise that with all this support we’ve been ruffling a few feathers. Just last month the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association created a website that looks just like our Truth About Chicken site—minus much of the truth!
“The chicken industry needs to take animal welfare as seriously as Americans do,” says McMillan. “We’re proud to have such dedicated supporters who understand that chickens deserve better!”
In just two months, more than 100,000 people have signed the ASPCA’s petition calling on the chicken industry to slow growth rates and provide better living conditions! Kudos to you. We are so happy to see the public embracing this issue.
But a funny thing happened in response to this effort. The National Chicken Council—the industry’s trade group—and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association created a website too, and it sure looks familiar! The big difference between their site and our Truth About Chicken website is that they replaced our statements about chicken welfare with their own.
While we’re flattered that these groups took the time and energy to build a website that looks just like ours, we took the liberty of providing some edits. Click on the thumbnail below to take a closer look:
Most of the almost 9 billion chickens raised in this country each year for meat are suffering enormously due to unnaturally fast growth rates and inhumane, unsanitary living conditions. This is bad for chickens and bad for us. With oversight by government almost nonexistent, it’s up to us to push for better treatment of chickens.
That’s why today we delivered our recommendations[PDF] to the National Chicken Council. We’re urging them to incorporate slower growth and better living conditions into their chicken welfare guidelines, which are expected to be released before the end of the year and essentially set the standards for the industry. Please join us by asking the NCC to take this step. Show your support for the ASPCA’s recommendations by visiting The Truth About Chicken and telling the National Chicken Council to get serious about welfare!
Here’s one more example of how human health and animal welfare are inseparable: On October 7, the USDA announced that 278 people across 18 states have contracted salmonella from eating chicken from a certain West Coast poultry processor. Reports indicate that about 42% of the people infected have been hospitalized—about double the normal rate of hospitalization for Salmonella infections—because this strain of salmonella is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics.
In a recent U.S. News & World Report story, Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, explained how this life-threatening outbreak is linked to the common industry practice of feeding chickens low doses of antibiotics to compensate for the sickening conditions on factory farms:
"It's not an accident that this particular strain is resistant," he said. "I suspect it's resistant because of the overuse of antibiotics among farm animals."
Chicken live in squalor, Siegel said: "Ninety-five percent of chickens are grown in such horrific conditions that they're standing in poop and they end up infected with salmonella. If one chicken gets it, they all get it."
On top of poor living conditions on farms, most modern chickens are bred to grow so fat, so fast, that many collapse under their own weight and spend much of their lives lying in their own waste, with open sores and wounds.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Chickens deserve better, and so do we. The ASPCA is urging the chicken industry to switch to slower-growing breeds raised in better conditions. Learn more and take action at TruthAboutChicken.org.
September is National Chicken Month, so it’s especially fitting that this month the ASPCA launched a national campaign to improve the lives of the nearly 9 billion chickens raised and slaughtered every year for meat. The Truth About Chicken is a big initiative for a big problem.
As the graph below shows, since 1920 the average weight of a meat chicken has risen while the time it takes to reach “slaughter weight” has shrunk. This is no accident. In the name of producing as much cheap white breast meat as possible, modern chickens have been bred for unnaturally fast and disproportionate weight gain.
The average age and the average live weight of chickens at slaughter since 1920.
On factory farms, where 99% of them live, chickens are packed into windowless sheds by the tens of thousands where in just over six weeks, they explode from tiny chicks into top-heavy, sumo-sized six-pound birds. That's almost a pound of weight gain a week!
The weight strains the birds’ bones and organs, which haven't had enough time to develop, causing all kinds of breakdown: broken bones, torn tendons, difficulty breathing, heart attacks and birds who collapse under their own weight. Overburdened but still youngsters, these chickens lie in their own waste for much of their lives, causing burns and open sores on their chests and feet. These wounds allow in Salmonella, campylobacter and other pathogens that can make consumers sick.
As farmer Will Harris states, “We have successfully bred most of the chicken out of the chicken. A chicken in 1940, raised for 14 weeks to maturity, could fly. A chicken in 2010, raised for 6 weeks to maturity, struggles to walk.”
We’re fighting for better lives for chickens and we need your help. Tell the industry that you won’t stand for this kind of cruelty in the name of profit. Take action at TruthAboutChicken.org today!
The ASPCA is excited to announce the launch of a new farm animal campaign focusing on the plight of chickens raised for meat (often called “broiler” chickens). Roughly 8.5 billion chickens are raised in the U.S. annually, most on squalid factory farms where there is no government oversight of their treatment.
The issue is not just the treatment of chickens, though: it’s that modern chickens are selectively bred to grow so large, so fast, that they struggle to simply move or stand.
Today’s chickens are bred to have such massive and disproportionate bodies that they often collapse and spend most of their lives lying helplessly in their own waste. Many have open wounds, which act as gateways to infections that can be passed on to people. Don't be fooled: Most chickens who wind up on American dinner plates bear no resemblance to the healthy-looking, active birds you may have been led to expect.
The ASPCA is calling on the chicken industry to do better—but to make sure they’re paying attention, we need to show them that people like you care about how chickens are raised, too.
By insisting on slower-growing chickens and better conditions, we can reduce suffering and raise healthier birds who may be less likely to spread dangerous infections like salmonella. But to get the chicken industry to move in the right direction, they need to see that people like you are paying attention—and counting on the industry to do what’s right for chickens and consumers.