Recent periods of extreme heat in the UK resulted in the premature deaths of millions of chickens, according to new reports.
Last week, The Independent learned from factory farm whistleblowers that some of the UK’s biggest chicken meat producers did little to protect their animals from extreme temperatures.
This resulted in millions of chickens literally “cooking” to death, said Abigail Penny, the executive director of Animal Equality.
Both Hook 2 Sisters Ltd, which “grows” six million chickens a week for the meat industry, and Moy Park Farm, which claims to be a “pioneer” of high welfare farming standards, were accused by ex-workers of not doing enough to protect their chickens. Both have links to major supermarkets.
The Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs is now investigating the situation.
Chickens suffering on UK farms
The UK has been experiencing periods of extreme heat. Last month, temperatures reached more than 40 degrees for the first time ever. This month, another heatwave is expected to grip the country.
Even without high temperatures, birds suffer on factory farms. They are forced to live in unnatural, extremely cramped conditions, which impacts their physical and mental wellbeing immensely.
As a result of poor animal welfare, millions already die before they reach slaughter age, as they are bred to grow so fast for meat that their bodies can’t cope. But during the heatwave, heat exhaustion was another cause of death.
The National Farmers’ Union maintained that farmers “do all they can” to look after their animals in extreme weather. But the whistleblowers claimed the opposite.
One worker said that they had been impacted by the “sheer scale and stink” of the dead chickens so severely that they still find themselves “crying and shaking” as a result.
Penny accused the meat industry of “failing to act.” She added: “The sad irony is that animal agriculture is a driving force behind these heatwaves and other deadly effects of climate change.”
The meat industry contributes 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The cattle industry, in particular, is a leading source of methane, a gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.