witness statement

name: Clare Druce
section: Animals
for: The Defence
experience: Poultry Welfare Researcher


The witness provides a detailed analysis of the problems which arise in the rearing of broilers which inflict suffering and pain upon the birds. The witness, too, relates the unacceptable conditions which they are kept in.


Co-founder of Chicken's Lib.

National Organiser for Farm Animals Welfare Network.

Author of Chicken & Egg: Who Pays the Price? (Green Print 1989).

Full cv: (not available for this witness)

full statement:

I believe I am qualified to give witness on the subject of cruelty involved in today's broiler chicken Industry, because of the detailed information I have gathered about that industry since 1984. This information has been obtained in the main through first-hand experience, by studying the scientific literature and talking to experts, and by following the industry's own literature closely.

Since Chickens' Lib first became aware of the inhumane nature of the broiler chicken industry the organisation (now incorporated into the Farm Animal Welfare Network - FAWN) has gathered much evidece by visiting farms, markets and slaughterhouses and by observing the condition of processed birds on supermarket shelves. Live birds have on occasion been retrieved from the road (having fallen from transport lorries) and studied. I have always been personally involved when evidence has been gathered and have been responsible for caring for any live birds bought or retrieved as described. This has given me the opportunity to study their behaviour and health status.

Chicken For Dinner

To supply material for its video "Chicken for Dinner?" Chickens' Lib purchased several day-old broiler-type chicks from a commercial hatchery and kept them for their natural lives, filming them weekly for the first 40 days (the most usual slaughter age for broilers). My observations of these and the other birds have led me to conclude that the modern broiler chicken is a genetic freak, the product of generations of selection for fast growth. This selection has shown a marked lack of concern, on the part or poultry scientists, for the birds' well-being. Birds slaughtered at only a few weeks of age are frequently diseased, lifeless and crippled. Those kept for a little longer than the usual seven weeks or less suffer from painful and crippling leg weaknesses to an even greater degree.

The incidence of crippling leg weakness in broilers is now acknowledged, and the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWN) has suggested to the industry that it should be in a position to show a significant improvement in the health status of broilers, re. leg weakness /lameness by the end of a five year period. (1)

Common diseases in broilers include ascites, fatty liver and kidney syndrome (FLKS), acute death syndrome, staphylococcal arthritis, E coli septicaemia, iriectious bursal disease (`Gumboro disease') and infectious stunting syndrome (ISS). Diseases which may remain subclinical yet cause serious diseases in humans eating contaminated meat include salmonellosis, listeriosis and campylobacteriosis. Botulism in cattle fed contaminated ensiled poultry litter has been suggested as a possible danger to human health. Under the general heading of LEG WEAKNESS/ LAMENESS the Farm Animal Welfare Council lists, in its 1992 Report on the broiler Industry, eleven of the most common conditions affecting broilers, plus six under a heading of miscellaneous. NB This Report excluded the breeding stock.

Unacceptable Living Conditions

In addition to problems largely arising from their genetic make-up, the birds' living conditions are unacceptable, being unsuited to the birds' needs, and insanitary. Broilers are not of course caged; they suffer from a completely different range of welfare problems to those encountered by battery hens, but the problems are, arguably, as great. Not only the young birds reared for meat suffer - CL/FAWN has exposed the severity of the feed restriction imposed on parent stock birds. Adult birds would fail to reproduce satisfactorily if fed ad lib., so are kept in a state of acute hunger for extended periods. Diseases and injuries caused or exacerbated by living conditions in the windowless controlled-environment sheds include hock burns, ulcerated feet, poor feathering, heat stress, and injuries caused by birds becoming trapped in automatic feed devices. Conditions in broiler sheds which give cause or concern to welfarists, since they may cause distress or actual pain include dim lighting, inadequate ventilation, filthy `capped' litter, overcrowding and the impossibility of properly inspecting the stock, as is required by law in the Welfare of Livestock (Intensive units) Regulations 1978. (2)

Unsatisfactory Slaughter

The slaughter of broiler chickens is often unsatisfactory, from the welfare point of view, with the effectiveness of electric stunning and neck cutting in question. Chickens' Lib and Compassion in World Farming have made joint representations to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on this subject. In the Foreword to Compassion in World Farming's 1993 Report on the Welfare at Slaughter of Broiler Chickens, Dr. Henry Carter, past President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and Chairman of the European Conference Grout on the Protection of Farm Animals wrote: "This report by the Compassion in World Farming Trust highlights the fact that procedures in far too many poultry slaughterhouses do not ensure that the birds are adequately stunned, leaving an unknown number alive, and some still conscious, when they enter the scalding tank."

I have written a book on the intensive egg and chicken industries (Chicken & Egg: Who Pays the Price? Green Print 1989). The book was described in The Spectator as "the definitive book on the egg crisis" However, in it I highlighted the health dangers from chicken meat at a time when it was more usual to blame eggs for the high incidence of Salmonella food poisoning. I also presented the dangers to the young, pregnant, old and immunocompromised from eating contaminated chicken. (Please see chapters 2 and 5 in my book.) I have also produced booklets, leaflets, posters and regular fact sheets detailing conditions on modern poultry farms.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council (the independent body advising the Government on matters relating to farm animal welfare) consults FAWN on all matters relating to poultry welfare and I am confident that, in my capacity of co-founder of Chickens' Lib and National organiser of FAWN, I am regarded by animal welfarists, the media and the poultry industry alike as someone whose views are important, since they are invariable backed up by carefully-researched facts.

date signed: 22 July 1993
status: Appeared in court
references: Full references available here

exhibits: Not applicable/ available

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