A JUDICIAL review challenging broiler welfare standards is to be heard in the High Court following an appeal.

Charity The Humane League is arguing that the use of conventional breeds of chicken breaches existing welfare laws.

See also: Objectively evaluating bird welfare

Its argument is that broiler production breaches the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007, which state: “Animals may only be kept for farming purposes if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of their genotype or phenotype, that they can be kept without any detrimental effect on their health or welfare.”

The case also challenges the ‘trigger system,’ Defra’s monitoring system aimed at detecting welfare issues.

The trigger system requires abattoir vets to report problems, but only if they occur above a given threshold – which The Humane League is arguing “is far too high”.

A final ground of the case argues that the system in place is creating unequal treatment between farmers who comply with the law and those who do not.

Better Chicken Commitment

The charity promotes the Better Chicken Commitment, which would see a switch to slower-growing breeds of broiler and lower stocking densities.

Edie Bowles, solicitor at Advocates for Animals and representing The Humane League in this case, said: “After being refused permission twice by the High Court, we have been successful before the Court of Appeal, which has given us the opportunity to present the case at a full hearing.

“The decision to grant a judicial review was the correct one. Not only is it clear that the law prohibits the farming of animals prone to suffering, combine this with a monitoring system which is inadequate to protect animals from extreme suffering and we see a system which is as broken as it is unlawful.”

See also: DEFRA outlines priorities for funded poultry welfare changes

A Defra spokesperson said it could not specifically comment on an ongoing legal case but pointed to proposals to fund higher welfare poultry production.

They added: “We are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

“All farm animals are protected by comprehensive and robust animal health and welfare legislation – including the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause any captive animal unnecessary suffering.”

‘Open conversation’

British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “We are always happy to have an open conversation about the direction of health and welfare as a developing science.

“As the sector producing half the meat the nation eats, we take a data-driven approach to bolstering our world-class standards.

“We continually look for new ways to manage risk to ensure that we are as efficient and as productive as possible, with the understanding that whatever we do must be good for the consumer, good for the environment and good for the bird.

“We are always interested to hear the opinions of external groups and audiences so we will be closely following the review.”