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Government U-Turns On Plans To Hand Chicken Welfare Over To Food Industry

Animal welfare charities welcomed the decision to retain statutory codes following a backlash against moves to give responsibility to the industry.

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Owen Humphreys / PA WIRE

Ministers have scrapped plans to make the food industry responsible for chicken welfare after a charity backlash.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), led by environment secretary Liz Truss, had planned to replace current welfare guidelines on farming chickens with industry-led rules that were due to be revealed on 27 April.

Had it gone ahead, the laws that criminalise animal mistreatment would not have changed, but companies would have overseen the enforcement of their own industry-led guidelines.

However, after vocal criticism from charities including the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, and PETA, DEFRA has rolled back on its earlier plan and announced it will no longer pass responsibility to businesses.

A spokesperson for DEFRA confirmed: "We want to draw more closely on the expertise of the farming industry to ensure our welfare codes reflect the very latest scientific and veterinary developments.

"In light of views raised, we have given the matter further consideration and believe we can achieve this objective by retaining the existing statutory codes."

She said DEFRA would work with the farming industry to ensure the guidance was up to date and adhered to.

The British Poultry Council (BPC), which was charged with drawing up the now-scrapped guidelines, told BuzzFeed News the U-turn was a "political" move to appease critics. It said the current guidelines are out of date and badly need updating.

BPC chair John Reed said DEFRA was "walking away from an opportunity to ensure welfare guidance is kept up to date with the latest research using industry expertise".

But charities, animal rights advocates, and opposition ministers hailed the move.

Very welcome change of heart of government, thanks to everyone who voiced their concerns

The RSPCA told BuzzFeed News it was "vitally important" that the codes remained statutory and are developed with governmental oversight.

The charity said having guidelines overseen by government was also important in giving lawmakers guidance on where offenders have broken the law with regards to animal treatment.

It was "very pleased" with the government's decision, a spokeswoman said.

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