Twenty two huge, eye-catching digital billboards are being erected between Tuesday 8 and Monday 21 June 2021 across five major cities – Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester  and Sheffield. They are expected to reach a staggering 1.45 million people.
Animal Justice Project has exposed ’higher welfare’, ‘free-range’ chicken farming  and slaughter  and claims conditions are often no better than those on intensive farms.
Liverpool billboards www.flickr.com/photos/129208916@N02/albums/72157719426312584
High welfare farms www.flickr.com/photos/129208916@N02/albums/72157709247017388
Around 5% of meat chicken farms are considered free-range and just 1% organic . A stark contrast to egg production where over half of layers in the UK are free-range . However, a staggering 22 million meat, or ‘broiler’, chickens are slaughtered each week within the UK . In a single year, more than one billion broilers are slaughtered . Broilers account for approximately one-third of UK meat production, making chickens by far the most common type of farmed animals raised and killed for meat .
The hype about free-range fed to the public, and the daily reality for free-range chickens are actually very different, the group say. Approximately 14 million chickens  are raised under the RSPCA-Assured label  - which specifies space allowances above legal requirements and other assurance providers  - however, flock sizes can be as large as 30,000 birds for indoor systems and 15,000 for free-range systems .
Overcrowding in sheds increases bird-on-bird conflict, increases levels of ammonia and animal waste, and makes it even more difficult for workers to assess injured birds. Thirteen chickens per square metre of floor space is considered adequate in free-range systems, under RSPCA Assured guidelines .
Another ‘selling point’ of free-range systems is the time chickens are allowed to live longer - 10 weeks of age, just 28 days longer than average industry standard of 42 days age, and a fraction of their natural 8 year lifespan. The ‘slow growing breeds’ are promoted as being ‘high welfare’ by NGOs and the industry alike, but still suffer the same health problems as faster-growing breeds. They experience lameness, heart problems, leg deformities and skin burns (known as ‘breast blistering’).
On free-range farms, there must be ‘pop holes’, yet studies have revealed that on free-range farms, many birds will never go outside. This is due to factors such as dominance hierarchy, condition of the range, and not being bred for mobility. Animal Justice Project have documented first-hand that outside living is not always the case for free-range birds. The investigation was featured in national media, including The Independent .
In 28 days of filming, young chickens were housed permanently inside a shed, with no natural light . Lame and injured chickens in the shed were also filmed – some of whom were left to die over a period of days.
Enrichment, such as perches, hay bales and objects to peck at to provide stimulation and encourage activity is compulsory on RSPCA farms, yet Animal Justice Project observed food and water sources that were filthy, broken and contaminated with sodden litter . ‘Enrichment’ was in the form of old plastic bottles hanging on feeder lines, some with ‘cola’ drink still inside .
Many birds are culled for being the wrong sex, or simply die on free-range farms. Animal Justice Project documented the deaths of 500 baby chicks over the course of just one week .
The public understandably want to believe the hype, and studies have revealed that consumers choose free-range because they believe animals are “happier” and “healthier” . Animal Justice Project advocates that there is no humane commercial chicken farming however, and it is in fact a lie perpetuated by the industry to make consumers feel better about their choices. Things are changing however, with more than 600,000 people identifying as vegan  and supermarkets being quick to follow demand by offering a vast array of plant-based foods [eg 17, 18].
Ayrton Cooper, Senior Campaigner, states: “Twenty-two of our stunning digital billboards are going up in five cities over the next few weeks, reaching 1.45 million people with our message about chicken farming and veganism. Our message is that consumers are being fed a lie about free-range farming. Most compassionate people would be horrified to learn that almost all free-range birds are kept in huge flocks within large crowded barns, being let outside for only parts of the day. Whilst exit holes from free range sheds may be compulsory, many sheds don’t have enough, and these exits are often blocked by the most dominant birds. It’s been stated that as little as 10% of free-range birds will be outside at any given time. We urge consumers to look beyond the labels, and create a kinder world for chickens by choosing a plant-based diet.”
Animal Justice Project is an international organisation campaigning to promote veganism and end cruel animal farming practices.
Claire Palmer, MSc Zoology
Animal Justice Project
T: + 44 (0) 7851 497 827
 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), 2020. Agriculture in the United Kingdom. Defra. Available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/895106/AUK-2019-25jun20.pdf
 RSPCA report ‘Everyone’s a Winner’ file:///C:/Users/DELL/Downloads/Everyone's%20a%20winner%20chicken%20report%20(PDF%20590KB).pdf
 RSPCA Assured Welfare Standards for Meat Chickens https://science.rspca.org.uk/documents/1494935/9042554/RSPCA+welfare+standards+for+meat+chickens+%288.48+MB%29.pdf/e7f9830d-aa9e-0908-aebd-2b8fbc6262ea?t=1557668435000