Research reveals darker side to animal welfare

It being after midday, we should probably draw your attention to the date of this piece before you read any further. Apologies to anyone who may have already let friends and colleagues know…

Research carried out by Brook Lyndhurst has revealed an unexpected effect of the move towards free range produce.

The study examined the behaviour of chickens on two farms in Dorset – one that has recently switched to using ‘extensive’ free range methods; the other a more conventional ‘battery’ farm.

Over a three month period, researchers observed significant differences between the two chicken populations. Whereas the battery farm chickens displayed consistent social patterns, the free range chickens rapidly became ‘desocialised’.

The research suggests that chickens – and possibly other farmed animals – may have difficulty coping with the lack of structure offered by a free range environment. The birds on the free range farm displayed increasing signs of social and political anxiety and divided into factions that often fought bitterly.

Some of the more powerful chickens also appeared to be siphoning off feed intended for the entire flock, giving it back to birds lower down the pecking order in exchange for pruning and feather cleaning. The trait caused one animal welfare campaigner to suggest a change of direction to focus on ‘feed, not freedom’.

Brook Lyndhurst director Jon Fletcher commented, somewhat inaccurately, that the new research has ‘really set the cat amongst the pigeons’.

2 Comments

  1. Jonathan McKenna
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    hohoho guys… you suckered me on this, the first day of April

  2. Alice Elliott
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    “with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, now shake your…”

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