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UK government faces court challenge over ‘Frankenchickens’

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An animal welfare charity has been granted a court hearing to challenge the government over the legality in England of fast-growing broiler chickens.The UK’s first animal law firm, Advocates For Animals, has brought the case on behalf of the Humane League UK regarding so-called “Frankenchickens”, which can suffer from a wide range of health and welfare problems.The Humane League argues that the use of breeds that grow unnaturally large, unnaturally fast, breaches the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007, which state that animals can only be farmed if “they can be kept without any detrimental effect on their health or welfare”.Research has shown that fast-growing chickens, which reach their kill weight in just 35 days, can have higher levels of mortality, lameness and muscle disease than slower-growing breeds.Analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Guardian found that more than 39 million broilers, chickens bred for meat, the vast majority of which are fast- growing breeds, were rejected because of diseases and defects at slaughterhouses in England and Wales over a three-year period – approximately 35,000 every day.The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) argues that it has no policy that condones or permits the use of fast-growing chickens.

However, the Humane League says they are the industry standard, constituting about 90% of the more than 1 billion meat chickens slaughtered each year in the UK.It was twice refused permission for a judicial review against Defra before Lord Justice Singh, at the court of appeal, said a full hearing would be in the public interest.Edie Bowles, solicitor at Advocates for Animals, said: “Not only is it clear that the law prohibits

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