The Italian Almanac

big chicken

Italian News - October 11

Animal activists will stage demos across Italy this weekend, in a bid to raise awareness of the suffering of chickens bred for meat. Italy's largest animal rights group, LAV, has launched a new campaign to fight intensive chicken farming, claiming it is cruel, unnecessary, profit-driven and a risk to human health. "We estimate that around 3,000 chickens in the European Union's 25 member states die every five minutes in indescribable and unacceptable pain and suffering," said LAV's spokesman for EU campaigns, Roberto Bennati.

LAV activists will be in central piazzas collecting signatures for a petition urging the government to support modifications to a proposed EU directive governing the intensive raising of meat chickens, known as broilers. The proposal, unveiled this summer, was welcomed by animal rights associations as the world's first directive concerned with broiler welfare. But most complained it didn't go far enough.

The draft allows producers to keep each chicken in a space smaller than an A4 sheet of paper - even less than that given to battery hens, say animal associations. "We want the EU directive to be modified and extended so as to reduce the density of chicken stocking," said Bennati. "We also want a ban on genetic selection."

LAV's biggest complaint, like that of most animal welfare groups, is the use of selective breeding to accelerate the growth of broiler chickens. Combined with high protein feed and growth-promoting drugs, it means that newly hatched chicks now reach full size in about 40 days - about half the time birds took to reach the same weight 30 years ago. The unnatural growth rate puts immense strain on their hearts and lungs, while their legs are frequently unable to support their overweight bodies, causing leg problems and painful crippling.