/* Milonic DHTML Website Navigation Menu Version 5, license number 187760 Written by Andy Woolley - Copyright 2003 (c) Milonic Solutions Limited. All Rights Reserved. Please visit http://www.milonic.com/ for more information. */











Chickens: Meat






Beef Cattle

Dairy Cows

Veal Calves




Geese & Ducks:
Foie Gras & Meat

Chickens: Meat

Chickens: Eggs





Contaminated Food

Animal Agriculture: Selected Bibliography



Avian Flu in Israel


How Long Animals Live

Who Controls the Food Supply





The ancestors of the chickens raised for food are jungle fowl (Gallus gallus). These birds can still be found in their native Southeast Asia, where they live in social groups and spend their days foraging for food, caring for their young and roosting in trees. Their potential lifespan is 15 years.


Domestic chickens destined for the dinner plate are subjected to a very different, much shorter life.


How "Broiler Chickens" Live

Israelis consume more chicken than any other animal raised for meat — an average of 45.5 kg (100 lb) per person.1 To accommodate this demand, 330 million chickens — called "broilers" by the industry — are slaughtered annually.2 One day out of the shell, hatchlings are placed by groups of 10 to 30 thousand in huge, ammonia-filled, windowless sheds.3 Artificial lighting is manipulated to make birds eat as often as possible so they can reach processing weight in six to seven weeks. Today's chickens raised for meat weigh an average of one-fifth more than those raised in the 1950s.4 Skeletal problems, especially in the legs, are common among these birds. A study published in the Veterinary Record cited a survey of commercial, intensively reared "broilers," of which "90 per cent had a detectable gait abnormality and 26 per cent suffered an abnormality of sufficient severity for their welfare to be considered compromised."5 Many birds die from ascites, a disease thought to be caused by the inability of birds' hearts and lungs to keep up with their rapid skeletal growth.6


Since there are so many birds in so little space, attention to their individual needs is impossible; administration of food and water is automated, and there is scant veterinary care, so sick or injured birds die and their bodies are simply trampled into the litter.


It is in these conditions that the birds live for 5-8 weeks, until they go to slaughter.7





How "Broiler Chickens" Die

The last day of their lives begins with a terrifying catching process, as with all poultry. One reporter at a United States chicken farm described the event as "a half-dozen men...grabbing chickens by their feet, shoving them into the drawers of 6-foot [1.8 m] high crates. The men can catch more than 6,000 birds in an hour."8 Since the birds have had little contact with humans, this activity creates mass panic within the flock, causing birds to break legs and wings and to trample one another. One industry study of catching practices concluded that "the number of freshly broken bones found in live birds prior to slaughter and the number of old healed breaks found at slaughter are unacceptably high."9


Once at the slaughterhouse, the birds are yanked from their crates and, while fully conscious, they are hung upside-down in shackles and their throats are slit. They bleed to death.


Other Issues

Even though more chickens and turkeys die for food than any other group of animals worldwide, they are the least protected. There are few and weak welfare laws, but in most cases poultry are specifically exempted from protection.10


Chicken is hardly healthy food. In addition to exposing the body to large amounts of harmful substances such as cholesterol, saturated fats, and concentrated protein, chicken consumption can also cause food poisoning. Since the outbreak of BSE (Mad Cow disease) in Israel and Western Europe, cattle can no longer be given feeds that contain meat, fish, or chicken meal. Farmers, however, are allowed to give chickens these feeds. In Israel, the Agriculture Ministry prohibits the use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGP). In spite of this regulation, chickens are fed antibiotics, but "a week before slaughtering, the chickens receive a different, antibiotic-free feed, so that the residue will not be detected by tests" (Ha'aretz, Oct. 2005). Consumers are led to believe that the food they serve is antibiotic-free.


Of the millions of kilos of antibiotics that are fed to chickens, only about 20 percent are metabolized; the remaining 80 percent ends up in their feces.11 All of the waste produced by factory farmed animals is usually used to fertilize crops and subsequently ends up leaching into waterways — along with the drugs and bacteria that it contains.


While the virus that causes avian flu (H5N1) is carried in the intestines of wild birds with no effect on the hosts, the confining and filthy conditions in which domestic poultry are raised for human consumption has proven to be a breeding ground for the virus. Birds are being slaughtered by the millions in an attempt to contain the disease. Although the World Health Organization says that "human cases of the infection are rare," it is calling for heightened surveillance as the virus spreads among bird populations. In March 2006, avian flu reached Israel. The virus quickly spread among the chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks on numerous farms. To contain the disease, the government destroyed 1.2 million birds, only a small percentage of whom were actually infected. The primary method used was poisoning the birds' drinking water, which killed them painfully, and then burying them in mass graves. In some locations, the birds were simply buried alive. Later in 2006 and in early 2007, hundreds of thousands of chickens in Israel were infected with Exotic Newcastle disease, a fatal viral infection that affects only birds, and they too were destroyed.






1 Dan Dvoskin, MD  and Samuel J. Cohen, "The Beef Industry in Israel: An Overview," The Negev Foundation 29 Feb. 2004.

2 Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, "Chicken Meat, Slaughtered/Prod Animals (1000)," FAOSTAT database, 2004.

3 K. Elrom, "Handling And Transportation of Broilers: Welfare, Stress, Fear and Meat Quality," Israel Veterinary Medical Association 55(2000).

4 Cindy Skrzycki, "Old Rules on Poultry Categories May Fly the Coop," The Washington Post 7 Oct. 2003.

5 S.C. Kestin et al., "Prevalence of Leg Weakness in Broiler Chickens and Its Relationship with Genotype," The Veterinary Record 131(1992): 190-194.

6 Joy A. Mench and Paul B. Siegel, "Poultry," South Dakota State University, College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences 11 Jul. 2001.

7 K. Elrom.

8 Amy Ellis Nutt, "In Soil, Water, Food, Air," Star-Ledger 8 Dec. 2003.

9 T.G. Knowles and L.J. Wilkins, "The Problem of Broken Bones During the Handling of Laying Hens — A Review," Poultry Science, 77 (1998): 1798-1802.

10 David J. Wolfson, Beyond the Law (Farm Sanctuary, 1999).

11 Mench and Siegel.