The Ethics and Politics of Animal Welfare in New Zealand: Broiler Chicken Production as a Case Study
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- Morris, M.C. J Agric Environ Ethics (2009) 22: 15. doi:10.1007/s10806-008-9128-3
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The cause of poor welfare in broilers is multifactorial, but genotype is a major contributor. Modern broilers have been bred for rapid growth, and this leads to increases in lameness and ascites as the legs and hearts of the heavier birds find it difficult to cope with the extra demands placed on them. Visible lameness indicative of pain is more common in New Zealand than in Europe. The government, however, insists that New Zealand welfare standards are higher than Europe. The government also appears to have a strong antipathy to those demanding better welfare for broilers. Reasons for this antipathy and disparities between government statements and research results are discussed. Government publications reveal that animal welfare is seen as a question of image for market access and that there is little concern with animal welfare as an ethical imperative for its own sake. The Animal Welfare Act in theory makes it an offence to ill treat an animal, but in practice allows exemptions for industrial agriculture. The interests of animals may be better protected by an independent animal welfare advisory service.