A new report has revealed that the majority of companies dealing in the food industry are failing to implement meaningful changes to improve the welfare of chickens in their supply chains.
The revelation was made during the release of the Pecking Order Report 2022 by World Animal Protection on Wednesday in Kampala.
The report sheds light on the current state of chicken farming and offers practical solutions to improve chicken welfare, reduce environmental impact, and ensure consumer safety.
The report highlighted the need for fast-food companies to take urgent action to address animal welfare and human health concerns.
Consumers are increasingly holding companies accountable for the treatment of animals used in their supply chains, and companies must recognise that there is no justification for profiting from the pain of sentient beings.
The farming campaigns manager at World Animal Protection, Dr Victor Yamo, said while progress has been made by some companies, some must be held accountable for their shameful lack of consideration of animal welfare.
Yamo explained that every year, billions of chickens endure chronic pain, skin lesions, and even heart failure caused by selective breeding, with little environmental enrichment in their cramped living conditions.
This is the reality for many chickens in the fast-food industry, who are subjected to inhumane treatment by companies who refuse to take their welfare seriously.
The Country Director World Animal Protection Africa Williams Tennyson said each year billions of chickens are subjected to unnecessary suffering at the hands of fast-food companies who refuse to take the welfare of the chickens in their meat supply chain seriously.
These inquisitive and social animals often live their entire lives in chronic pain, suffering from lameness, skin lesions and even heart failure caused by selective breeding, which leads to an unnaturally fast growth rate.
Crammed on factory farm floors with little to no environmental enrichment, they are also prevented from exhibiting their natural behaviours such as foraging, dustbathing, and perching.
Every year since the publication of The Pecking Order 2019, fast-food restaurants have been ranked on their chicken welfare policies, taking into account their commitments to make improvements and their reporting on implementing these commitments.
Since then, Tennyson said while there has been some progress made on improving chicken welfare and some companies are innovating by offering meat-free options on their menus, most companies have received embarrassingly low scores in The Pecking Order 2022.
Even where companies have committed, they are either not reporting on it or implementing it in their supply chain is slow.
This year’s results, he said, clearly indicate that some of the world’s leading food companies are deliberately ignoring large scale animal cruelty in their supply chains and, as a result, are eroding their social license to operate.
“Shockingly, big brands continue to ignore urgent consumer demands and animal welfare science, subjecting billions of chickens to unimaginable suffering. Companies’ inaction is not only an animal welfare issue, but human health is also being jeopardised due to antibiotic overuse in farming, fuelling a deadly superbug crisis,” he said.
He said raising welfare standards will reduce the need for routine antibiotics used to prevent disease amongst animals kept in appalling conditions, thereby helping to lower the risk of antibiotic resistance in humans.
“These companies are failing people, animals, and the planet. They know that consumers are not interested in paying for animal suffering and are increasingly holding companies accountable for how animals used in their supply chains are treated,” he said.
The Pecking Order has shone a light on the chicken meat industry over the last four years and highlighted the welfare standards of the most influential global fast-food brands.
World Animal Protection called for the review of the animals (prevention of Cruelty ) Act to bring an end to the rising torture of chicken.