The European Commission recently published a study on the implementation status of the EU Broiler Directive (2007/43/EC). With this study, the Commission takes a first step towards its obligation under the Directive  to submit a report to the European Parliament and Council concerning the law’s application and influence on chicken welfare.
Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals says, “While the study provides a detailed insight into the broiler industry’s structure and market dynamics, it bluntly fails to discuss if and how the welfare of broiler chickens improved as a result of the implementation of the Directive. We trust that this will be corrected in the report to the Council and European Parliament. We regret that despite the appalling welfare issues at stake, the study does not make any recommendations, which is a missed opportunity.”
This highly technical study addresses topics such as the (legal) transposition of the Directive, the implementation of training and guidance regarding keeping broilers and the indicators used by producers to assess broiler welfare.
Regrettably, the study does not go beyond mapping the indicators used in different countries, limiting the capacity of decision makers to make an informed judgement and draw conclusions on animal welfare improvements across the European poultry sector. Indeed, the available animal welfare indicators such as the level of Footpad Dermatitis , are used differently across EU countries, which is likely to lead to different conclusions in terms of welfare, even when the same indicator is used.
Yet, other studies  and investigations  across Europe have shown that broiler chickens face terrible hardship under conventional production systems. Predominantly raised in industrial conditions, in overcrowded sheds holding tens of thousands of birds, with no access to outdoor areas or enrichments, broiler chickens also suffer from numerous health problems (such as lameness and heart failure) due to their extremely fast growth rate. There is a growing movement in the EU and the US, advocating for higher broiler welfare standards.
Besides total compliance with EU legislation, improvements are urgently needed, including the use of higher welfare, slower growing breeds, a decreased stocking density, improved environmental standards, more humane slaughter methods and proper third party auditing.
Eurogroup for Animals expects the Commission now to draw concrete conclusions on the welfare impact of the Directive based on this study and other relevant – and perhaps more explicit – evidence, and share those as part of its terribly delayed report to the European Parliament and Council. We urge the Commission to include recommendations to address the most urgent improvements as identified above. The animal based indicators as well as the ways in which they are practiced should be a tool to uniformly assess and tackle welfare issues.
Article 6: “On the basis of available data and taking into account new scientific evidence, the Commission shall, not later than 30 June 2012, submit to the European Parliament and to the Council a report concerning the application of this Directive and its influence on the welfare of chickens, as well as the development of welfare indicators. The report shall take into account the different production conditions and methods. It shall also take into account the socio economic and administrative implications of this Directive including regional aspects.”
Footpad dermatitis (FPD) describes a condition of inflammation and necrotic lesions on the bird’s feet. (Greene, J. A., R. M. McCracken, and R. T. Evans. 1985. A contactdermatitis of broilers—Clinical and pathological findings. Avian Pathol. 14:23–38).
 Recent articles on broiler welfare problems
- EFSA (2010): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1666/epdf
- Part, C., Edwards, P., Hajat, S., Collins, L. (2016). Prevalence rates of health and welfare conditions in broiler chickens change with weather in a temperate climate. Royal Society Open Science, 3, pp. 2-19.
- Allen & Lavau (2014). ‘Just-in-Time’ Disease – Biosecurity, poultry and power. http://www.uio.no/studier/emner/sv/tik/TIK4011/v15/pensumliste/allen-lavau-just-in-time-disease.pdf
- Bergmann, S., Schwarzer, A., Wilutzky, K., Louton, H., Bachmeier, J., Schmidt, P., Erhard, M. and Rauch, E. (2017). Behavior as welfare indicator for rearing of broilers in an enriched husbandry environment – a field study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 19, pp. 90-101.
- L214 investigations on broiler chickens: https://www.l214.com/enquetes/2017/elevage-made-in-france/poulets-doux
- Guardian article on megafarms quoting CIWF: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/17/uk-has-nearly-800-livestock-mega-farms-investigation-reveals