The Truth About Free Range Chickens (oil on board)
Yes, there are no doubt some chickens who enjoy a genuinely free range lifestyle in some back gardens and on some small holdings. Yet the vast majority of so called "Free Range", "Organic", "Red Tractor Approved" and "High Welfare" chickens are reared in their thousands in large windowless sheds, never seeing the light of day until the time they're transported to the slaughter house at the age of around 6 weeks. Naturally chickens can live for 10-15 years.
The crowding in these sheds is often so intense that the chickens almost never have a chance to engage in any of their natural activities like foraging, dust bathing, socialising - let alone caring for their young. Rather than give them more space, farmers cut off a portion of their sensitive beaks without painkillers to minimise the birds harming each other. Because of their sheer numbers - hundreds of thousands per shed - many do not get the opportunity to access whatever outdoor space that may be available. Many lose their feathers because of the high levels of ammonia and stress from the extreme noise, stench and confinement. Because competition for food is so fierce, chickens can resort to cannibalism, pecking at the rotting corpses of their dead flockmates.
To meet our increasing demand for white meat, and to keep prices low, farmers have been encouraged to attain new levels of efficiency and cruelty. They now produce chickens that grow at phenomenally unnatural rates and have the equivalent amount of space as an A4 piece of paper to live on. Yet most birds can barely stand, let alone walk, by the time they reach six weeks old and are ready for slaughter.
"Free Range" labels might make consumers feel better about the meat they're purchasing, but the only real way to ensure your food hasn't caused extreme suffering and misery for another living being is to eat vegan.
Try some of the chicken alternatives available in most supermarkets, or just eat more vegetables. But please, leave chickens off your plate.
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