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Suffering Of Farmed Turkeys Exposed In UK

by ANC Staff, CIWF and RSPCA

An undercover investigation by the British group 'Compassion in World Farming' (CIWF) has revealed that, while this may be the season of peace and goodwill for mankind, it is the season of unimaginable brutality for turkeys suffering at the hands of mankind.

The footage, which was obtained during the last fortnight on two separate farms, reveals shocking levels of turkey suffering and illegal slaughter in the UK. The despicable and illegal mistreatment of turkeys included:

1. Complete failure to use pre-stunning equipment prior to throat-slitting
2. Birds being plucked alive due to failure to respect the minimum two-minute delay between throat-cutting and the commencement of plucking
3. Live turkeys' heads plunged into a vat of congealed blood as they bleed to death

To obtain the footage, CIWF's investigator took up temporary employment as a turkey-plucker within the onsite slaughterhouses of two independent farms in Staffordshire and Bedfordshire.

The investigator said, "Occasionally, when the way in which the birds' throats had been slit would allow it, a squealing and hissing sound was made by them. It was horrible to hear.'

Kerry Burgess, CIWF's Campaigns Director said, 'The fact that such inhumane practices are allowed to go on in this day and age is absolutely unacceptable. CIWF will be taking steps to ensure that those inflicting such unnecessary cruelty are suitably prosecuted.'

The UK's RSPCA also revealed this week that modern turkeys are now bred to such grotesque sizes they would probably die out without the help of artificial insemination. The organization is urging British shoppers to spare a thought for the animal at the center of the Christmas dinner.

The Royal Society has condemned the ineffectiveness of basic UK legislation which it says fails to protect many millions of turkeys from a life in which they are denied the opportunity to express natural behaviours such as mating, moving around freely and exploring their environment.

"It is an unpalatable thought for most, but the huge modern turkey would probably not exist without human intervention," said RSPCA senior scientific officer Caroline Le Sueur. "To achieve maximum yield of the preferred breast meat male birds have become so large that they can scarcely get close enough to a hen to mate - and any attempt could seriously injure the female."

"To maintain these sizes hens must be artificially inseminated, a process which is highly likely to be stressful for the birds and can lead to injury. If nature were left to its own course then these larger birds would die out and more naturally-proportioned turkeys would survive," she explained.

Crammed into a space not much larger than the roasting tin they will be cooked in (up to 60kg/m2) many of the UK turkeys suffer lameness which is linked to their huge size.

In addition, many develop painful skin conditions caused by the dirty litter floor on which they spend their life.

"We must seriously question modern breeding techniques which have led to this situation," Le Sueur continued. "In 1995 a committee set up by the government to consider the ethics of animal breeding concluded that the production of birds physically incapable of engaging in natural behaviour was 'fundamentally objectionable'."

Other disturbing facts about the turkey farming industry in the UK include:

1. There is no legally-set maximum stocking density for the production of most turkeys so by the time they reach slaughter weight many end up occupying a space not much bigger than the size of a turkey roasting tin.
2. Turkeys currently only have to be given 30 minutes of darkness for rest time each day.
3. There are no legal criteria for food, water, lighting or handling of turkeys.

Tasty, nutritious vegetarian alternatives to the usual turkey roast can be found at the Web sites of the British Vegetarian Society, the British Vegan Society, and VIVA! UK. Links to these recipes are provided in the More Information Box to the right of this article.

2003 Animal News Center, Inc.

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