More chickens are raised and killed for food every year than all pigs, cows, and lambs combined. As one of the most widely consumed animals globally, chickens endure intensive farming practices that prioritize efficiency and profit over the well-being of the animals.
In other words, the chicken industry views these birds as products rather than the living, feeling animals that they are. This mindset results in a miserable existence for billions of chickens every year.
Here are five reasons to stop eating chicken:
1. Selective breeding leads to pain-filled lives.
Most chickens raised for meat have been selectively bred and commercialized over decades for ultrafast growth and large breasts, with no consideration for their welfare. Many chickens grow so big so quickly that their bodies can’t keep up. Their legs can’t cope with the weight of their upper bodies, so they suffer leg pain and deformities. When their legs give out, many birds lose their ability to stand or walk. Unable to reach food or water, they languish on shed floors.
Because the birds are unnaturally large, their hearts and other organs are also under pressure, and many die prematurely from heart failure.
2. Chickens are forced to live in filthy, overcrowded sheds.
Chickens raised in the meat industry spend their whole lives packed inside filthy sheds, often with tens of thousands of other birds. When chickens are crammed so tightly together, their litter becomes soiled more quickly, and the birds have inadequate room to move. Extreme crowding also causes psychological distress, which can lead to abnormal behaviors, such as cannibalism.
Farms rarely change the litter between flocks, which means most birds must stand and lie in urine and waste for their entire lives. As a result, many chickens suffer from painful sores on their feet and ammonia burns on their chests and bellies.
3. They’re denied everything that’s natural and important to them.
Chickens are naturally curious and intelligent animals who love exploring, scratching, and pecking for food, running around, and taking dust baths. But chickens raised for meat are forced to live in a completely barren environment with virtually no stimulating resources. They can’t dustbathe because their litter is almost always wet and dirty, and they don’t have enough space to run and explore. Most chickens raised for meat won’t even see the outdoors until the day they’re shipped to slaughter.
4. Chickens suffer light-manipulation tactics.
Even the lighting inside chicken sheds is unnatural. To encourage chickens to eat more and thus grow bigger, modern chicken farms commonly practice light manipulation. Chickens are often subjected to near-continuous, low-intensity artificial lighting.
The National Chicken Council’s guidelines require only four hours of darkness per 24-hour period for most of a chicken’s life. The hours of darkness can be provided in increments as short as one, two, or four hours. “Darkness” is defined as 50% of the light level in the remaining hours, so it’s possible that many chickens never experience anything that resembles daytime or nighttime.
5. A miserable life ends with a terrifying death.
The most common slaughter method for chickens in the United States is live shackling. The chicken industry wants the slaughter line to move as fast as possible to make the most profit. Therefore, workers move quickly to hang the frantic birds upside down by their legs in shackles, and many birds become injured in the process.
A machine drags the animals’ heads through an electrified water bath meant to render the chickens unconscious, but many birds aren’t effectively stunned and are still conscious when their throats are cut. Some animals are still alive even when they’re dunked into scalding de-feathering tanks.
You can make a difference for chickens suffering in factory farms.
One of the most effective (and easiest) ways to help these sensitive and intelligent animals is to stop eating them and end your support for the chicken industry.
While it’s vital for consumers to do their part by making kinder choices, companies should also be held accountable for what they allow in their supply chains. Years ago, major food companies promised publicly to ban some of the cruelest chicken farming practices—described above—by 2024. But some of these companies—including Starbucks, TGI Fridays, and Le Pain Quotidien—have failed to be transparent about their progress toward this goal.