The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published an updated draft code of practice for the welfare of meat chickens and meat breeding chickens, following a consultation last year.

The draft code contains twenty recommendations to seek veterinary advice on the subject, compared to ten in the previous version, highlighting the crucial importance of veterinary surgeons' involvement in the welfare of meat chickens. 

The new codes have been welcomed by the BVA, the British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) and Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA), who jointly responded to the Government consultation on the updating of the codes.

BVA President John Fishwick said: "We welcome the Government’s recognition of the vital role the veterinary profession plays in poultry welfare, with further references throughout the updated draft code to the importance of seeking veterinary advice. 

"We are particularly pleased to see the recommendation that welfare outcomes should be used to assess and monitor the ongoing welfare of the birds as part of the farm health and welfare plan, and with the signposting to the Humane Slaughter Association’s Poultry Catching and Handling Technical Note within the code.

"The British poultry industry already has some of the highest welfare standards in the world and the veterinary profession and poultry industry will continue to work with Defra on further enhancing animal welfare codes to reflect best industry practice."

The draft code was placed in Parliament on 9 January 2018. If there are no objections from Parliament, it will come into force in March 2018.

Photo: Flock of Chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) Roaming Freely in Front of Chicken Sheds on a Farm in the Rural Village of Chenson, Devon. Shutterstock / Peter Turner Photography