Animal Welfare in British Farming

Overview

This is a brief introduction into how the British animal agriculture industry handles animal welfare. It covers the conditions each commonly consumed animal lives in as well as common welfare concerns.

Pigs

Pigs are the third most commonly consumed animal in the United Kingdom. Pig farming is typically separated into grower pigs which are raised for their flesh and sow pigs which are repeatedly impregnated to birth grower pigs.

Living Conditions

Almost all pigs are raised on factory farms

Age at Death

Almost all pigs are killed between 4-6 months old

Grower pigs
Breeding pigs

Grower pigs

4-6 months

Breeding pigs

3-5 years

Birth

Natural life expectancy

Slaughter Method

Most pigs are put into gas chambers and then their throats are cut

Welfare Concerns

Farrowing Crates

Farrowing Crates

Mother pigs are put into small individual cages for six weeks at a time while giving birth

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In British farming

Piglet Thumping

Piglet Thumping

Piglets deemed weak or unprofitable are inflicted with blunt force trauma until they are dead

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In British farming

Early Death

Early Death

Pigs die before making it to slaughter due to the low welfare conditions they are raised in

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In British farming

Legal
Artificial Insemination

Artificial Insemination

Mother pigs are forcibly impregnated with tubes containing semen that are pushed into the cervix

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In British farming

Tail Mutilations

Tail Mutilations

Piglets tails are removed to prevent injuries that arise due to the low welfare conditions they are raised in

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In British farming

Tooth Mutilations

Tooth Mutilations

Pigs teeth are clipped or ground to prevent injuries that arise due to the low welfare conditions they are raised in

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In British farming

Genital Mutilations

Genital Mutilations

Male pigs are castrated to make the taste of their flesh more desirable

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In British farming

Ear Mutilations

Ear Mutilations

Piglets ears are tagged or tattooed as a method of identification

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In British farming

Repeated Pregnancy Cycles

Repeated Pregnancy Cycles

Mother pigs are repeatedly impregnated until they are too exhausted to continue

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In British farming

Legal
Indoor Rearing

Indoor Rearing

After weaning pigs spend their entire lives indoors to be fattened for slaughter

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In British farming

Legal
Unsuitable Transport

Unsuitable Transport

Pigs are transported during hot temperatures that are known to cause distress and suffering

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In British farming

Common during summer
Ineffective Stunning

Ineffective Stunning

Pigs stunned using electronarcosis regain consciousness after their first stunning

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In British farming

Painful Gas Chambers

Painful Gas Chambers

Pigs are killed using high carbon dioxide concentrations that are known to cause pain, fear and distress

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In British farming

Chickens, Ducks and Turkeys

Chickens are the most consumed animal in the United Kingdom with approximately 1.12 billion bred each year. Most flesh is produced from broiler chickens with the remainder coming from egg laying hens that are no longer considered profitable.

Living Conditions

Almost all chickens are raised on factory farms

Age at Death

All chickens are killed at a fraction of their natural lifespan

Factory farmed chickens
Free range chickens
Organic chickens

Factory farmed chickens

35 days

Free range chickens

56 days

Organic chickens

81 days

Birth

Natural life expectancy

Slaughter Method

A majority of chickens are put into gas chambers and then their throats are cut

Welfare Concerns

Unsuitable Shed Density

Unsuitable Shed Density

Chickens are packed into sheds at a rate of up to 19 birds per square meter of space

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In British farming

Legal
Flock Culling

Flock Culling

Birds seen as weak or unprofitable are killed and discarded

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In British farming

Indoor Rearing

Indoor Rearing

Birds live their whole lives in sheds with no outdoor access or natural lighting

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In British farming

Legal
Fast Growing Breeds

Fast Growing Breeds

Chickens are selectively bred to grow at two to four times their natural rate leading to health issues

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In British farming

Legal
Starvation

Starvation

Fast growing birds that can't move perish because they are unable to access food and water

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In British farming

Legal
Foot Rot

Foot Rot

Birds feet and legs are burnt by faeces that build up on the uncleaned shed floors

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In British farming

Legal
Heart and Circulation Failure

Heart and Circulation Failure

Pressure on birds bodies from fast growth leads to heart failure and death

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In British farming

Legal
Unsuitable Flock Size

Unsuitable Flock Size

Birds cannot exhibit their natural "pecking order" behaviour because flock sizes are too large

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In British farming

No Water Access

No Water Access

Semiaquatic ducks with no access to surface water unable express their natural behaviours

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In British farming

Early Deaths

Early Deaths

Birds die before being sent to slaughter because of the low welfare conditions they are raised in

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In British farming

Legal
Non-stun Slaughter

Non-stun Slaughter

Birds throats are cut without first being stunned in an electric water bath or gas chamber

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In British farming

Unsuitable Transport

Unsuitable Transport

Chickens are transported during hot temperatures that are known to cause distress and suffering

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In British farming

Common during summer

Dairy Cows

Cow's milk is produced by specifically bred dairy cows with each cow averaging 8,004 liters of milk per year. For a dairy cow to produce milk they must be female and must have been impregnated.

Living Conditions

Dairy cows are kept in a broad variety of conditions from outdoor pasture to intensive indoor farms

23%Other

Age at Death

Dairy cows are killed when their milk production declines

Females
Culled males
Veal males

Females

6 years

Culled males

1 day

Veal males

6-8 months

Birth

Natural life expectancy

Slaughter Method

A majority of beef and dairy cows are killed with bolt guns

Welfare Concerns

Artificial Insemination

Artificial Insemination

Cows are forcibly impregnated by a farmer or vet putting their hand into the anus and injecting sperm into the vagina

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In British farming

Repeated Pregnancy Cycles

Repeated Pregnancy Cycles

Cows are repeatedly impregnated until their milk production declines or they are too exhausted to continue

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In British farming

Legal
Mother and Calf Separation

Mother and Calf Separation

Calves are removed from their mothers a few hours after birth so that milk collection can start

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In British farming

Legal
Male Calf Culling

Male Calf Culling

Male calves that are deemed not useful to the dairy industry are killed and discarded

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In British farming

Legal
Male Veal Calves

Male Veal Calves

Male dairy calves raised for veal are prevented from exhibiting their natural behaviours

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In British farming

Legal
Milk Replacer Fluid

Milk Replacer Fluid

Calves are fed milk replacer fluid instead of their mothers milk

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In British farming

Legal
Isolation Pens

Isolation Pens

Naturally social calves are put into small individual pens for up to 8 weeks after birth

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In British farming

Ear Mutilations

Ear Mutilations

Cows ears are pierced or chunks are removed as a method of identification

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In British farming

Skin Mutilations

Skin Mutilations

Calves hair follicles are permanently damaged using irons cooled to well below zero as a method of identification

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In British farming

Horn Mutilations

Horn Mutilations

Calves heads are permanently damaged using a hot iron while under local anesthetic to prevent horns from forming

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In British farming

Unnatural Milk Output

Unnatural Milk Output

Cows selectively bred to produce seven times their natural milk output leading to health problems

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In British farming

Legal
Mastitis

Mastitis

Cows udders become infected and painful due to the large quantities of milk they are producing

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In British farming

Legal
Lameness

Lameness

Cows become susceptible to leg and foot diseases because of inadequate housing and management practices

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In British farming

Legal
Early Death

Early Death

Cows die before making it to slaughter due to the toll on their bodies from increased milk production

Read more

In British farming

Legal

Laying Hens

Each year around 12 billion eggs are consumed in the United Kingdom. These eggs come from specifically bred laying hens that produce up to 250 eggs per year.

Living Conditions

A majority of hens are kept in either free range or caged barns

Age at Death

All laying hens are killed at around 72 weeks old

Free range laying hens
Enriched cage laying hens
Male laying hens

Free range laying hens

72 weeks

Enriched cage laying hens

72 weeks

Male laying hens

1 hour

Birth

Natural life expectancy

Slaughter Method

Almost all spent laying hens are put into gas chambers and then their throats are cut

Welfare Concerns

Male Chick Culling

Male Chick Culling

Male chicks are killed by gassing or blending because they are not useful to the industry

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In British farming

99% of chicks born male
Unnatural Egg Output

Unnatural Egg Output

Hens egg yields are dangerously high due to years of selective breeding

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In British farming

Legal
Unsuitable Shed Density

Unsuitable Shed Density

Free range hens are packed into sheds at a rate of up to 13 birds per square meter of space

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In British farming

Beak Mutilations

Beak Mutilations

Hens have a portion of their beaks forcibly removed to prevent them pecking each other in confined conditions

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In British farming

Bone Fractures

Bone Fractures

Hens bones deteriorate due to the increased rate of egg production leaching calcium from their bodies

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In British farming

Legal
Feather Loss

Feather Loss

Hens lose their feathers due to being pecked, stress, parasites and disease

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In British farming

Legal
Unsuitable Flock Size

Unsuitable Flock Size

Hens cannot exhibit their natural "pecking order" behaviour because flock sizes are too large

Read more

In British farming

Enriched Cages

Enriched Cages

Hens spend their entire lives in small cages with minimal movement and stimulation

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In British farming

Vent Prolapses

Vent Prolapses

Hens inner tissues protrude outside of their body due to excessive and large egg production

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In British farming

Legal
Limited Outdoor Access

Limited Outdoor Access

Hens outdoor access is limited and poor quality

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In British farming

Legal
Early Deaths

Early Deaths

Hens die before their allocated 72 weeks of egg production is up

Read more

In British farming

Legal
Foot Rot

Foot Rot

Hens feet are burnt by faeces that build up on uncleaned floors and surfaces

Read more

In British farming

Legal
Unsuitable Transport

Unsuitable Transport

Hens are transported during hot temperatures that are known to cause distress and suffering

Read more

In British farming

Common during summer
Non-stun Slaughter

Non-stun Slaughter

Hens throats are cut without first being stunned in an electric water bath or gas chamber

Read more

In British farming

Beef Cows

Cows are the second most commonly consumed animal in the United Kingdom. Around half of the production comes from dairy cows that are no longer considered profitable, with the other half coming from cows specifically bred for their flesh.

Living Conditions

Likely to be mostly outdoors

No data is available for the living conditions of beef cows but it is likely to be mostly outdoors

Age at Death

A majority of beef cows are killed before 2 years of age

Cows

Cows

21 months

Birth

Natural life expectancy

Slaughter Method

A majority of beef and dairy cows are killed using bolt guns

Welfare Concerns

Horn Mutilations

Horn Mutilations

Calves heads are permanently damaged using a hot iron to prevent horns from forming

Read more

In British farming

Skin Mutilations

Skin Mutilations

Calves hair follicles are permanently damaged using irons cooled to well below zero as a method of identification

Read more

In British farming

Ear Mutilations

Ear Mutilations

Cows ears are pierced or chunks are removed as a method of identification

Read more

In British farming

Genital Mutilations

Genital Mutilations

Male cows genitals are severed to make their flesh tenderer and to simplify management

Read more

In British farming

Feedlots

Feedlots

Cows are kept in barren pens where they are fattened in the months and weeks leading up to being killed

Read more

In British farming

Legal

Thank you for taking the time to read this page. We believe the exploitation of animals is an important issue and wish to get this message out to as many people as possible.