Canada, Factory Chicken Industry Roasted in India, UK

MUMBAI, India, December 26, 2000 (ENS) - India's meat eaters might be thinking twice about their carniverous ways after an animal welfare group unveiled a billboard ad this week depicting a chicken preparing to eat a human leg on a plate.

The ad, designed by Mudra Communications Limited, one of India's biggest advertising agencies, appeared all over Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. It is part of a campaign launched by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to convince the public of the benefits of a healthy, humane diet.

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This ad depicting a chicken preparing to eat a human leg appeared all over Mumbai this week. (Photo courtesy PETA)
Chickens raised in factory farms spend their entire lives in dark, crowded conditions. Many are so cramped they cannot turn around or spread their wings. They briefly glimpse daylight on an equally cramped, hot ride to the slaughterhouse, where their throats are cut while fully conscious.

PETA's campaign will see the ads appear in Calcutta, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai, before moving overseas to the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. It follows a similar high profile strategy taken by the group Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), which last week raised the issue of suffering in the broiler chicken industry.

Broilers are chickens reared for their meat, not to produce eggs. Modern broilers have been pushed through selective breeding to reach their slaughter weight in just 41 days - twice as fast as 35 years ago.

The chicken's legs cannot keep pace with the rapid body growth and often buckle under the strain of supporting the overdeveloped body. As a result, many of the 800 million broiler chickens reared in the UK each year suffer painful, sometimes crippling leg disorders.

In the worst cases, the birds cannot walk at all and can only move by crawling on their shanks.

Earlier this month the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), an independent body appointed to advise the UK Minister of Agriculture Elliot Morley, wrote to Morley stressing that painful leg disorders continue to be a serious welfare problem for broiler chickens.

Welcoming FAWC's initiative, CIWF's Peter Stevenson called on Morley to "take urgent action to end painful leg disorders and lameness," in broiler chickens.

In recent years, the broiler industry has been conducting its own survey into the extent of leg problems in the UK industry. Their results were presented to the FAWC which, in its letter to Morley said it was "severely disappointed" that the industry's survey showed no significant improvement in the level of leg weakness.

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Agriculture Minister Elliot Morley. (Photo courtesy UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)
CIWF cites a recent article in World Poultry magazine, which claims that by 2005, the broiler chicken industry plans to breed the birds to be 575 grams - heavier than their current slaughter age of 41 days.

This would mean the birds being pushed to grow even faster.

PETA, like CIWF, is calling on the public to do its part to improve conditions for the birds.

"PETA is asking people to think about what they're eating," said PETA's Jason Baker. "Chickens are living, feeling animals who suffer terribly before and during slaughter. This ad cleverly reminds us that humans and chickens share the capacity for pain."

A.G. Krishnamurthy, chairman of the Mudra Group whose clients include Hindustan lever, Johnson & Johnson and Indian Oil Corporation, said, "We were extremely pleased to contribute to PETA's vegetarian campaign. It was inspiring to work on such ideals."