‘Why Should We Care about Chickens?’ My research & presentation at Durham University Animal Law Conference- MD Mominul Hamid

I had an opportunity to do a presentation int the Nonhuman Animals Conference in April 2022 as a law student to reflect on the very important issues about ‘ Chickens’. In our day-to-daily life, we do consume chickens. I have tried to reflect on the facts that how we are treating the Chickens and why should we care about them. I did the ‘Animal Law’ Module in my Second Year and I found it very fascinating and something new to learn as a law student. I would like to admit my gratitude to my Module Tutor – Deborah Rock for her support and help in this as well. Some graphic image is shown later on .

**Please avoid yourself if yourself if you do not want to see them**

History & Facts:                 

There are more chickens in the world than there are humans. Chickens are 70% of all birds alive right now on earth. The number of chickens worldwide has more than doubled since 1990. In 2020, there were some 33 billion chickens in the world, up from 14.3 billion chickens in 2000. They are 99% of all land animals slaughtered for food. [1]

An estimated 50 billion chickens are killed worldwide yearly according to the report of the World economic forum 2019.[2] 

Chicken Can Fly

Chickens are domestic birds that can fly there are over 93 different breeds that come in various colours patterns and sizes. Let’s not get into what came first the chicken or egg. [3]

Chickens are really good at recognizing faces and they also have great memories. Not only can they recognize over 100 faces, but also animals and humans.

T Rex is actually more closely related to chickens’ alligator chickens were first domesticated from a wild form called red junglefowl in South East Asia and China as early as 10,000 years ago. [4]

Lori Marino is a cognitive scientist who reviewed all the evidence relating to the existence of morally relevant biological characteristics of chickens and she summarises the outcomes here got to run through these as you can see possessed various visual and spatial capacities.[9]

Arguably dependant on mental representation the degree to which animal people have mental representations of knowledge things in their environments around them.

Speaking to capacities such as memory, chickens could count they had some self-control and self-assessment may indicate self-awareness again there’s awareness of one’s environment.

 Chickens do show social interactions. So they are able to anticipate and manipulate one another they have hierarchies we are all about the pecking order of chickens and their relationships.

Chickens have complex negative and positive emotions as well as shared psychology with humans and other behaviorally complex animals and exhibit emotional contagion and some evidence of empathy.


Chicken farms break the law millions of times a day, say animal rights groups. A joint letter signed by 14 animal protection charities has been sent to Zac Goldsmith, UK Minister for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) [DR1] calling on the Government to properly enforce regulations designed to protect chickens at the time of slaughter.

Animal Welfare Act 2006

s.4  Unnecessary suffering

(3)The considerations to which it is relevant to have regard when determining for the purposes of this section whether suffering is unnecessary include—

(a)whether the suffering could reasonably have been avoided or reduced;

(e)whether the conduct concerned was in all the circumstances that of a reasonably competent and humane person.

S. 9 Duty of person responsible for animal to ensure the welfare

(1) A person commits an offence if he does not take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice.

2) For the purposes of this Act, an animal’s needs shall be taken to include—

(a)its need for a suitable environment,

(b)its need for a suitable diet,

(c) it needs to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,

(d)any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, and

(e) its needs to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

The law addresses the needs of animals to a degree. the animal welfare act of 2006 makes it an offence to subject an animal to unnecessary suffering and also to fail to fulfil

the responsibility to the animal’s welfare needs. However, the law doesn’t go far enough; the animal welfare sentencing act 2021 has enhanced the level of penalties available, including the length of prison sentences for offenders against Section 4 and section 9. More can still be done since clearly animals including chickens are still suffering in their millions right now.

Handling Chickens

“Chickens don’t have a diaphragm like us, so being carried upside-down causes their internal organs to crush their lungs, and on top of that intensively reared chickens to have very fragile legs and joints. Carrying them like this is causing huge amounts of suffering and the Government isn’t doing anything to stop it. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 also makes it an offence either to cause any captive animal unnecessary suffering or to fail to provide the welfare needs of the animal,”.

Handling chickens by the legs is illegal under The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006, which transposes Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 from the EU. However, despite this, it is referenced as a possible way of handling in the official Government Codes of Practice, which farmers use to guide their operations. Consequently, the signatories say catching chickens by their legs is standard industry practice in the UK.[5]

“Hens in non-cage systems must also be caught and held by both legs. In all systems, hens should only be carried by both legs and care should be taken to avoid hitting solid objects particularly if wings are flapping.” [6]

According to Poultry catching and transport standard UK-  Chickens are not carried by their wings or neck.[7]

According to The Humane League, 3.1 million chickens are transported to slaughter every day in the UK. Animal protection groups claim all commercial-sized farms practice catching chickens by the legs, which they say means the law is being broken millions of times a day.

The legislation states that animals should not be lifted or dragged by the head, ears, horns, legs, tail or fleece, or handled in such a way as to cause them unnecessary pain or suffering. A recent case in The Netherlands ruled that the Dutch authorities must investigate companies handling chickens by the legs after accepting that it is prohibited under the same law that applies to the UK.

“This legislation was created to protect animals and minimise any stress caused during very stressful activity. The fact that the law is being broken so widely is unacceptable. The Government guidance is currently encouraging unlawful activity,” said Edie Bowles, solicitor at Advocates for Animals.[8]

R (ciwf) v Secretary of State [2004] EWCA civ 1009 

The compassion in the world farming case against Defra was based on the deliberate underfeeding of breeder chickens in order to enhance productivity and maximise profit. The chickens were kept in a permanent state of hunger, which compassion in world farming considered to be in contravention of regulations specifying that adequate feed should be provided. The House of Lords ruled in favour of Defra, who was the subject of the claim for not having enforced the regulation.

Companies elsewhere in Europe have started to adopt a progressive catching method developed by Dutch animal charity Eyes On Animals known as the Upright Catching Method. Rather than being caught and carried by the legs, chickens are caught one by one with both hands placed around the body, holding the wings closed, and the chickens are carried to and placed in the transport crate while upright.

Welfare/ why should we care?

Welfare concerns are associated with the various forms of farming poultry so why should we care about chickens?

As we all know chickens are not just dumb animals anyway, don’t we of course hopefully none of us actually think that but that is of course one of the dominant ways that chickens are portrayed in children’s films our jokes that we so many jokes about chickens crossing the street essentially implying that they have low intelligence its part of our cultural background chickens are not very clever.

 Why I should really care about chickens?

Chicken for meat & poultry in the UK

Part of UK boiler chicken history as a whole nearly 300 million chickens may be suffering from this every year thirty million would be almost unable to walk this can become so severe that they can not really bear the weight of their bodies upon their increasingly painful legs.

Over 70% of chickens are raised for meat globally. Back in 1950, the chicken was eaten as a treat; British people ate less than a kilo in a whole year. Now, we eat on average 25kg in a year – that’s more than 2 kg per month.

Each barn can accommodate tens of thousands of birds. The 2007 EU Directive on broilers allows about 19 animals per square meter, depending on the weight of the slaughtered animals. That is, the space for each bird is less than the size of an A4 sheet. The animal welfare act made provision for the introduction of further regulations regarding the welfare of specific animals. chickens are covered by schedules 2,3,4 and 5 which detail specific requirements regarding chickens in different settings. Whilst setting minimum standards, the starting point was very low; prior to the regulations, 12 chickens per/ square metre was considered acceptable

In general, except for water and water stations, broiler homes are sterile and lack natural light. There is debris on the floor to absorb the dung, which is not removed until the chickens are removed from the hut for slaughter.

Air can be severely polluted with ammonia from feces. This can damage the eyes and airways of the chicken and cause painful burns (called “hockburns”) on the feet, chest, and feet.

Thousands of deaths can occur so these animals in these sheds become very dependent on ventilation systems as one of the examples of artificial system data payment form in the next series of images.

Between July 2016 and June 2019, 61,008,212 defects in chickens were identified

30 million would be almost unable to walk

Thousands of deaths can occur because of poor ventilation systems on the farm

Male chickens are considered as waste in commercial egg farming.

In the European Union, intensively farmed chickens are bred to reach their slaughter weight in less than 6 weeks. So it is coming to your plate within six weeks’ time. This is less than half the time it would take traditionally. Their short lives are spent in overcrowded, dimly-lit sheds with no access to the outside. The typical lifespan of backyard chickens can be between 5-12 years.

The Ross 308 is one of the most successful products in consumer history, with tens of billions of sales worldwide over the last decade. Breeding to reach its killing weight in just 35 days, Ross 308 grows more than three times faster than traditional varieties of the 1950s.
According to a 2019 study by Aarhus University in Denmark and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, it took 32 days for the Ross 308 to reach 1.8 kg, the same, compared to broilers developed from commercial meat broilers in 1957. It took more than 100 days to reach. Due to the weight of modern food plates, chicken can be cheaper than fried. A 1.4 kg whole chicken from Tesco’s Willow Farm weighs only 2.89 pounds (2.07 pounds per kg), while a 1.6 kg bag of McCain Home Chips weighs 3.50 pounds (19 pounds per 2.1 kg) ( Source- The Guardian).

Source Guardian-‘Frankenchicken’ at the centre of fight for animal welfare, April 2022.

An undercover investigation on a British farm in the last few years and as we go through I want you to have a look at these and see what you think of the animal welfare problems “Commercial egg farms pictures see up”[10]

Md Mominul Hamid Doing presentation
While doing presentation

Overall, to face this we should make aware our consumers about the facts of why should we care about Chickens? Why it is very important for our own needs to consume a healthy chicken for our own health. Government should invest more in supervising and imposing the law on the commercial farming of Chickens.

Thank you, everyone.

My Social media Post and Comment about the Conference: It was a great experience to be able to do a ‘Presentation’ at the “Representing Nonhuman Animal Law Conference At Durham University” this week. 

My presentation topic was- ‘Why should we care about Chicken”? I have explored – ‘Some of the reasons why we should care about chickens, speaking to capacities such as memory, their ability to count, capacity for self-control and self-assessment, signs of self-awareness and awareness of their environment. I have explored the world view about intensively farmed chicken before exploring how we approach the issue in the UK including relevant legislation.

I was overwhelmed by the comments from the people who joined online in the conference. One of the comments I got on my LinkedIn from a High Court Advocate in Kenya-

‘Greetings Hamid, I did enjoy your presentation on, ‘why should we care about chicken’. I must admit, I had no idea that chickens can recognise more than 100 human faces’. 

I would like to admit my gratitude to my Animal law tutor Debbie Rock for her support in this presentation, My Law School Faculty for encouraging me, All the presenters who have shared extensive research & knowledge about animal welfare, The organising committee and of course my cohorts who have come in the conference. #MdsJourney #MdslegalOpinion #CommunityEngagement #MdsPresentation   

Poster of the conference

Bibliography and Sources:

[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/chart-of-the-day-this-is-how-many-animals-we-eat-each-year/#:~:text=An%20estimated%2050%20billion%20chickens,as%20the%20chart%20below%20shows.

[2] (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/chart-of-the-day-this-is-how-many-animals-we-eat-each-year/#:~:text=An%20estimated%2050%20billion%20chickens,as%20the%20chart%20below%20shows.)

[3] https://poultrykeeper.com/chicken-breeds/#:~:text=The%20British%20Poultry%20Standards%20recognise,breeds%20is%20the%20Red%20Junglefowl.

[4] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/t-rex-linked-to-chickens-ostriches-180940877/

[5] https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/157828/chicken-leg-carrying/

[6] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/732227/code-of-practice-welfare-of-laying-hens-pullets.pdf

[7] (https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Poultry-Catching-and-Transport-standards.pdf)

[8] https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/157828/chicken-leg-carrying/

[9] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170103091955.htm

[10] https://betterchicken.org.uk/

 [DR1]You need to give a year for this. Zac does not work for Defra now.

Leave a Reply