Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Poultry scientist says her comments on hen welfare were 'misconstrued'

Poultry scientist Professor Christine Nicol from Bristol University sparked widespread controversy in the UK and overseas when a speech she made resulted in newspaper reports claiming that cage hens enjoyed better welfare than free range birds.

She said her speech had been misconstrued. Professor Nicol said that she agreed to appear on a panel of scientists explaining some of the more complex issues about farm size. During an hour-long briefing she said she mentioned that birds on very large farms could have rather good welfare outcomes on some measures. But, she said she could not prevent headlines like 'Cage hens are happier than free range' in the Daily Telegraph and 'Organic isn't better than factory farmed' in the Daily Mail. Even the BBC reported that, 'Welfare standards are on average higher in laying hens kept in cages than in free range flocks, according to a leading veterinary expert.'

Professor Nicol is well known in the poultry industry. Her team at Bristol has conducted research studies on laying birds, including current trials on beak trimming.

Her speech, at an event about the merits of large scale farming organised by the Science Media Centre, came just over a week after Elwyn Griffiths, chairman of the British Egg Products Association (BEPA), stood up at the Egg and Poultry Industry Conference to say that intensive egg production offered the highest level of hen welfare.

No comments: