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Broiler chickens are latest target of animal rights activists

The latest battle between the animal agriculture industry and animal rights groups is focused on broiler chickens.

The animal rights activists say broiler chickens are growing too fast, causing cardiovascular and skeletal issues for the birds.  They want the broiler industry to use slower growing chickens and they’ve already convinced some food companies to go along with those demands.

Kate Barger Weathers is a veterinarian with Arkansas-based Cobb-Vantress, a breeder of meat-type chicken genetics.

“They are targeting some things that we just commonly don’t see much in the industry or out on broiler farms,” Barger Weathers says. “Our customers are not asking for this, so it’s a little bit of a challenge for us as a company and certainly for our customer base throughout the world, because they want to have more efficient birds that also have great health and welfare characteristics. But they don’t believe that simply slowing the growth rate of the bird is equivalent to having better welfare outcomes.”

Like many others in the animal ag industry, Barger Weathers thinks animal welfare is secondary to the animal activists’ ultimate goal.

“We believe the strong message that some of these activist groups want to achieve is that there’s less animals produced for human consumption and that there’s less animal protein being consumed,” she says.

Barger Weathers believes if the activists are successful in forcing changes in chicken genetics, other sectors of animal agriculture could be targeted next.

“We are the current target, in the center of the bullseye. We know that the layer industry was there just a few years ago, and the swine industry before that.  I believe dairy will be one of the next targets.”

AUDIO: Kate Barger Weathers

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