Chickens bred for meat make up four out of every five land animals killed for food in New Zealand, with around one hundred and twenty million killed this year alone.
If you buy chicken, do you know what you are buying? Cage-free, free-range, organic - none of these labels mean the chicken on the shelves was free from suffering. These birds have short lives full of suffering. They have been selectively bred by the meat industry to grow abnormally fast. Each week, they double in size.
Their bodies can’t cope with this explosive growth, as their muscles grow faster than their bones. The chickens become so heavy that their weak legs often can’t support their bloated bodies.
This unnatural growth also means that these chickens are prone to painful lameness and joint collapse, many spending the last part of their lives in chronic pain. Others struggle to breathe or die from heart failure.
Although not confined in cages, around 40,000 birds are kept in each cramped, barren shed, the air thick with ammonia. The conditions are filthy and stressful. Sitting in their own excrement can cause painful sores on their weak legs and the soles of their feet.
The chickens are routinely fed antibiotics to ward off the inevitable infection that comes from overcrowding. Despite this, across New Zealand, thousands die daily in the sheds.
Even on so-called free-range farms, many birds only see the outdoors the day they are trucked to slaughter.
Those that survive are killed at around six weeks of age, peeping like the baby chicks they still are.
We are working to change the lives of millions of chickens. Much of the huge suffering caused to chickens eaten for meat is due to their unnaturally fast growth bred into them by the chicken industry.
Whilst there is still much work to be done, we urgently want to see an end to the use of fast-growing breeds and improvement in the conditions for those that are farmed.
On a personal level each one of us can do something to help chickens right now by leaving them off your plate.