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What is Selective Breeding? (Trigger Warning)

Please be advised that the following article contains content that some readers may find distressing. The article discusses the topic of animal abuse and suffering, including graphic descriptions of cruel treatment and harm inflicted on animals in factory farming. Readers who have experienced trauma related to animal abuse may find this content triggering. If you need support, please reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or a mental health professional. Excerpt from The Humane League 11.28.2022

Chickens are social beings with thoughts and emotions. Studies find that they can recognize up to 100 faces! Sadly, our society sees most chickens as commodities, not sentient beings. Estimates suggest that more than 98% of chickens raised for eggs and meat in the US spend their lives in the dark, filthy confines of factory farms. These birds will never feel the grass under their feet or enjoy the pleasures of a dust bath.

From cramped, filthy cages to brutal slaughter at an early age, chickens endure many cruel practices on factory farms. One widespread practice that causes immense suffering to birds is selective breeding.

The fate of chickens is a life of extreme misery. Despite their social and sentient nature, chickens are subjected to miserable lives. So What Is Selective Breeding? Most people are aware of the terrible living conditions of animals in factory farms, but fewer people are aware of the suffering caused by a common poultry industry practice called selective breeding.

How Does Selective Breeding Work? In the poultry industry, commercial breeders and farmers aim to produce offspring who can yield higher quantities of meat or eggs. They choose larger birds to pair together for reproduction, with the intention that their genes are likely to produce young who will yield more meat or eggs "After about five weeks, they are just too big to walk or even get up." Selective breeding has led to an unnatural growth rate which causes health problems and physical disabilities among chickens. Some of the most common health conditions attributed to selective breeding include:

  • Skeletal and metabolic disorders

  • Tendon rupture

  • Lesions

  • Angular bone deformity

  • Sudden Death Syndrome

  • Tibial dyschondroplasia

  • Leg problems

  • Ascites

  • Heart and circulatory disorders

  • Heart attack

  • Chronic hunger

Most notably, chickens' bodies have become so large that many birds struggle to move or even stand up.

The authors of an article published in the journal Poultry Science compared the growth of modern chickens to a two-month-old human baby weighing 660 pounds.

Pain and difficulty from walking can mean that some chickens are unable to make their way to food or water and can die from hunger or thirst.

"The pain and disability associated with selective breeding "must constitute, in both magnitude and severity, the single most severe, systematic example of man's inhumanity to another sentient animal." -Dr. John Webster

What you can do Selective breeding is a tragic example of what can happen in an industry that has no moral compass. In the poultry industry, profit targets take priority over the health and wellness of birds with thoughts and feelings. Without federal laws to protect them, chickens need caring individuals like you to defend them. Ready to take action for animals today? Sign up for the Humane League's Fast Action Network to protect birds and other animals from cruelty.



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