Global Animal Welfare Policy Research Project Update

April 27, 2022

It is now a year since we launched our ground-breaking international study of public policy regarding the farming of chickens for meat (they are known as ‘broilers’). By examining and comparing the policy process in four different countries (Australia, UK, Aotearoa-New Zealand and the Netherlands) we aim to figure out what factors help and hinder better animal welfare protection.

Many more chickens are killed for the meat industry (e.g. almost 1 billion just in the UK) than all other types of animal put together. So looking into this field of animal use is hugely significant to the cause of animal protection.

Our research team, Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan, Dr Peter Chen and Dr Sue Pyke have been making fantastic progress with interviewing relevant experts from all perspectives in each country, and have already presented two papers at academic conferences on the preliminary results of their research.

Title slide of 1st paper

The first paper, titled ‘Talking (at cross purposes) about ‘meat chicken’ welfare’, reported on the initial findings from the Australian interviews. It reveals some startling differences in views on the welfare of chickens:

  • Animal Advocate – ‘If I was going to be born a farm animal, I think chickens would be the last one I want to be born as.
  • Industry Association Vet and Manager – ‘It’s to a point now where I believe the welfare of the chickens is quite satisfactory.

The second paper, ‘The Third Sector and Animal Welfare Policy in the UK and Australia’, presents some of the preliminary comparative analysis. One fascinating contrast is that while in the UK there is a heavy (private) regulatory reliance on the ‘Red Tractor’ industry assurance scheme, in Australia there is a similar non-governmental reliance on a certification scheme run by an animal welfare group, RSPCA Australia.

Dr O’Sullivan explains:

‘These slides form part of the research team’s work-in-progress. We have presented at two international academic conferences to date, one focused on animal studies and one oriented to public policy. Those presentations form part of our work to refine the research, moving us towards peer-reviewed publication. We expect to see changes in our findings as we fold in data from Aotearoa-New Zealand and the Netherlands. Please keep an eye out for updates related to progress in our thinking and conclusions, as more data and analysis becomes available’.

The project is scheduled to last a total of two years, and is co-funded by the CASJ and RSPCA Australia.