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Industry Association Supports Better Welfare

24 August 2009

SOUTH AFRICA - Following allegations of welfare issues at one farm recently, the Southern African Poultry Association (SAPA) has re-affirmed that its members take welfare issues seriously. It added that a global solution needs to be found for the disposal of male layer chicks.

Recent allegations of animal welfare irregularities by a poultry breeder serving the egg farming industry have led to widespread concern about poultry farming practices, a matter which the Southern African Poultry Association (SAPA) has taken seriously and has embarked on a number of actions aimed at minimising the risk of any animal welfare irregularities taking place.

Cape Business News reports Kevin Lovell, CEO of SAPA, saying that all South African poultry farmers who belong to the Association have to agree to adhere to SAPA's Code of Practice, a series of guidelines and principles drawn up according to international standards.

"These actions include setting up a more formal inspection regime with the [National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] NSPCA; having third-party verification of hatchery practices; involving the South African Veterinary Association; as well as taking action against the alleged perpetrators. Once due process has been followed with the party concerned the outcome of our deliberations will be publicly released," said Mr Lovell.

He added that one issue of concern to many South Africans has been the fact that there is no economic use for male birds in an egg farming business.

"The modern layer hen has been bred over many years to produce a large number of eggs over a sustained period, without the hen itself gaining weight, which helps ensure the good health of the layer hen," he said. "The modern broiler chicken, on the other hand, has been bred to gain weight quickly to help ensure that the least amount of feed is used to produce a marketable bird. This makes the male layer chicken unsuitable for meat production since it cannot economically compete against the broiler chicken neither in its rate of growth nor in its use of feed."

Mr Lovell said that as poultry producers, the industry's members have long seen this unfortunate inability to productively use all that is raised as problematic, but local producers acknowledge that no country has yet found a satisfactory solution to the problem. He adds that that eggs are also the cheapest form of animal protein all around the world and poultry meat, in most places, is the second cheapest form of animal protein.

"Research being done in Australia and the USA seeks to alter the sex ratio of hatching eggs so that fewer male layer birds are produced. We welcome this research and hope that it will be successful and that the methods used will be considered acceptable by all parties," Mr Lovell told Cape Business News.

"As an industry that supplies in excess of 60 per cent of South Africa's annual protein needs, we see ourselves as vitally important yet responsible participants in feeding the nation."

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