Trade unruffled by CIWF claims

The British poultry industry has disregarded claims by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) that a new scientific study suggests millions of factory-farmed chickens are suffering from lameness.

According to CIWF, the Defra-funded study, by an independent team of researchers at Bristol University, backs long-standing claims by the organisation that chickens suffer in factory-farm conditions.

CIWF argued that the research showed "27.3% of broiler chickens reared from commercial flocks, owned by five major UK producers, suffered from moderate or severe leg disorders impairing their ability to move", which it equated to over 200m broiler chickens suffering from lameness every year.

Comparing the results to an earlier study in 1992, which CIWF claimed found 26% of UK broilers suffered from leg disorders, the group criticised the industry as being "over optimistic" when it published results in 2001 saying lameness was largely a problem of the past and that only 2.3% of broilers had leg disorders.

However, Peter Bradnock chief executive of the British Poultry Council branded CIWF's conclusions as "too simplistic". He said: "While it is too premature to fully analyse the findings of the Bristol University study, the interpretation of the results by CIWF is not realistic."

Bradnock explained that to compare the findings from 1992 to the latest study was futile because each had been conducted for entirely different purposes. "The study carried out in 1992 did not look at leg health but at gate scoring on chickens, and only analysed four flocks. The 26% related to those and cannot be attributed to the national flock." He added the recent results needed a much finer analysis before any conclusion could be made.