Poultry welfare plans

Plans to implement Europe's first comprehensive welfare rules on chickens raised for meat were released for consultation by Defra yesterday.

The EU rules focus on the overall welfare of birds, as well as the individual factors that contribute to welfare, and include the monitoring of birds at slaughterhouses so that signs of poor welfare can be raised with both producers and agencies responsible for animal welfare and food safety.

The new European rules for the first time produce a legal baseline for all producers, including those who do not participate in any voluntary assurance schemes, while complementing, not replacing, existing voluntary assurance schemes.

Farming minister Jane Kennedy said: "These new EU rules are a welcome improvement on the limited conditions previously applied to the welfare of chickens raised for meat. From now on, we will be looking at what really matters, which is the overall welfare of the bird itself.

"The fact is that many factors contribute to high welfare standards, and that's what we're focusing on - better standards for all birds across Europe.

"For most English producers, the new requirements simply build on systems that are already in place and working well."

The EU measures also include new limits for ammonia and carbon dioxide and standards for temperature, humidity and maximum stocking density, as well as clear requirements for industry training.

Animal Health and the Meat Hygiene Service would play a central role in implementing the new regulations transposing the EU rules, which are open for public consultation until 20 April.

The new EU rules are due to come into force in June 2010, and cover all chicken meat production holdings with more than 500 birds. They do not apply to holdings with only breeding stocks of meat chickens, hatcheries, extensive indoor, free range or organic chickens.

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