Weekly Overview: Poultry Welfare: Bringing Together Theory and Practice

GLOBAL - The news this week on poultry welfare includes a new study on the causes and prevention of feather pecking and a study on welfare teaching across the EU. Australian free-range poultry farmers are being given the opportunity to steer future research and an e-petition in the UK aims to bring about an end to slaughter without stunning.
calendar icon 6 November 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Wageningen University in the Netherlands is looking into what farmers can do to prevent severe feather pecking in laying hens when beak-trimming is banned.

From 2018 onwards, it will be forbidden by EU law to beak-trim laying hens, which is presently a preventive measure against feather pecking.

What can laying hen farmers do to prevent feather pecking? In all segments of the egg production chain, from egg to layer, there are possibilities to decrease injurious pecking.

Large group housing raises the risks during rearing and laying phases, according to Wageningen research, while management changes incorporating variable pecking options and fear reducing measures – such as a radio playing or introduction of roosters – can reduce feather pecking.

“It's all about the chain approach,” concluded Wageningen researcher, Elske de Haas. “From genetic choices to housing: avoid excessive fear in the birds, as high fearfulness is a big risk factor for feather pecking.

According to a new EU study, the main differences in farm animal welfare education across Europe seem to be in the reduced number of hours of education, less interactive teaching and fewer courses in English available to students outside the North West of the region.

In Australia, Poultry CRC is conducting a survey of free-range chicken farmers to investigate the future direction of research in this area.

In the United Kingdom, nine out of 10 vets say consumers should be better informed about farm animal slaughter methods, according to a new survey from the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

Few vets think the public understands the difference between stunned slaughter (where the animal is stunned to render it insensible to pain before having its throat cut) and non-stunned slaughter.

The BVA President said: "We know that UK consumers care about animal welfare but our members believe that there needs to be better understanding about methods of slaughter and how that impacts on welfare. We believe labelling that clearly explains the method of slaughter would help all consumers make informed choices about the products they wish to buy."

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