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The ethics and politics of animal welfare in New Zealand: broiler chicken production as a case study

By M. C. Morris

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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.

Date 2009
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 22
Issue 1
Pages 15-30
ISBN/ISSN 1187-7863
DOI 10.1007/s10806-008-9128-3
Language English
Author Address Marine and Environmental Management, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Private Bag 12001, Tauranga, New Zealand.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal rights
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Ascites
  4. Australasia
  5. Birds
  6. Broilers
  7. Chickens
  8. Commonwealth of Nations
  9. Developed countries
  10. Ethics
  11. Fowls
  12. Government
  13. Growth
  14. Lameness
  15. Meat animals
  16. New Zealand
  17. Oceania
  18. OECD countries
  19. Pain
  20. peer-reviewed
  21. politics
  22. Poultry
  23. Selection
  24. Social psychology and social anthropology
  1. peer-reviewed