Information

Welfare of meat chickens and meat breeding chickens: guidance

Detailed information about the needs of meat chickens and meat breeding chickens and how to meet these needs in accordance with good practice.


Legislative background

A person can be responsible for a meat chicken for the purposes of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 (“the 2006 Act”) and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 on a permanent or temporary basis. A person who is in charge of a meat chicken will be a person who is responsible for it. A person who owns a meat chicken is always to be regarded as being a person who is responsible for it. A person does not relinquish responsibility for a meat chicken by reason only of abandoning it[1].

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 places certain requirements on persons responsible for protected animals (as defined in the 2006 Act) including, for example, regulation 7. In the particular context of meat chickens, this means that a person responsible for a meat chicken must not attend to it unless that person is acquainted with, and has access to whilst so attending, any relevant guidance documents which are specified in the Regulations. Failure to do so is an offence under the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010.

A person responsible for a meat chicken must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that any person employed or engaged by that person does not attend to the  meat chicken unless the employee or engaged person–

  • is acquainted with any relevant guidance documents which are specified in the Regulations, including those specified in regulation 7;
  • has access to a copy of those documents; and
  • has received instruction and guidance on those documents.

Failure to do so is an offence under the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010.

Activities carried out in accordance with this guidance may be regarded as good practice. This guidance may also be considered relevant by the courts in any prosecution of offences under sections 19 (unnecessary suffering) and 24 (ensuring welfare of animals) of the 2006 Act. The relevance of the guidance to any prosecution will depend on the facts and circumstances and, in some cases, the guidance may not have any bearing on the prosecution.

Section 19 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 states that:

(1) A person commits an offence if— 

(a) the person causes a protected animal unnecessary suffering by an act, and 

(b) the person knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act would have caused the suffering or be likely to do so.

(2) A person who is responsible for an animal commits an offence if—

(a) the person causes the animal unnecessary suffering by an act or omission, and  

(b) the person knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act or omission would have caused the suffering or be likely to do so. 

(3) A person (“person A”) who is responsible for an animal commits an offence if—

(a) another person causes the animal unnecessary suffering by an act or omission, and 

(b) person A— 

(i) permits that to happen, or

(ii) fails to take such steps (whether by way of supervising the other person or otherwise) as are reasonable in the circumstances to prevent that happening.

(4) The considerations to which regard is to be had in determining, for the purposes of subsections (1) to (3), whether suffering is unnecessary include—

(a) whether the suffering could reasonably have been avoided or reduced,

(b) whether the conduct concerned was in compliance with any relevant enactment or any relevant provisions of a licence or code of practice issued under an enactment,

(c) whether the conduct concerned was for a legitimate purpose, for example—

(i) the purpose of benefiting the animal, or

(ii) the purpose of protecting a person, property or another animal,

(d) whether the suffering was proportionate to the purpose of the conduct concerned,

(e) whether the conduct concerned was in the circumstances that of a reasonably competent and humane person.

(5) This section does not apply to the destruction of an animal in an appropriate and humane manner.

Section 24 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 states that:

(1) A person commits an offence if the person does not take such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which the person is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice.

(2) The circumstances to which, for the purposes of subsection (1), regard is to be had include—

(a) any lawful purpose for which the animal is kept,

(b) any lawful activity undertaken in relation to the animal.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), an animal’s needs include—

(a) its need for a suitable environment,

(b) its need for a suitable diet,

(c) its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,

(d) any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, 

(e) its need to be protected from suffering, injury and disease.

(4) This section does not apply to the destruction of an animal in an appropriate and humane manner.

The legal text in boxes throughout this document is not part of the guidance but highlights relevant legislation.  The text in these boxes is the law as it stands on the date that this guidance is published. (Date of publication: 18th March 2019) You should be aware that any of the legal requirements quoted here could change. You should check that these are an accurate statement of the law as it currently stands. See Annex 1 for a list of other relevant legislation.

A person may commit an offence if they fail to comply with the requirements referred to in the boxes throughout this document. There may be other legislation and requirements that are not outlined in this guidance that you must also be familiar with and comply with.

During on-farm welfare inspections, inspectors appointed under the 2006 Act may have regard to this guidance when assessing compliance against legislation. Those responsible for enforcement may also refer to the guidance when issuing advice, warning letters or care notices under the 2006 Act.

This guidance does not apply to anything which occurs by virtue of, or in accordance with, a provision of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 makes provision for the protection of animals used for experimental or other scientific purposes.  

Suggested sources of additional information are included at the end of this guidance.

Contact

Email: Kirsten.Foubister@gov.scot

Back to top