The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has advised to carry and load birds upright, instead of inverted by their legs. This is one of the recommendations EFSA recently published in their latest report to the European Commission. They write “During loading, inversion and carrying birds by the legs increases the severity of handling stress and the risk of injuries (dislocated joints, fractures in legs or wings and bruises) compared to handling birds in an upright position.”
EFSA also confirms that inversion is stressful as birds do not have a diaphragm. “Inversion can provoke compression of the heart and lungs by the viscera and might compromise breathing and cardiac activity. This causes stress, fear and wing flapping behavior in an attempt to return to the upright position.” EFSA mentions that due to bone fragility, susceptibility to fracture and housing systems (high risk of birds bumping into objects), the catching and crating of end-of-lay hens represents a particularly high risk of injuries.
EFSA writes that the quality of employees (attitude and knowledge) and their proper supervision also determines how many birds are injured. “Staff working under time pressure and people not given enough time for breaks and rest will increase the risk of rough handling.” Training and good working conditions are therefore extremely important.
In 2016 Eyes on Animals were already providing training courses for catching teams, and approaching poultry farmers to switch to the upright catching method. After farmers themselves experienced the huge difference (calmer birds, less noise), several of them made the decision to switch. Read more about the farmers who now use the upright method (Dutch only) >>
We are happy that EFSA has given their official opinion on this issue by concluding the upright catching is best for bird welfare. We look forward to the poultry industry taking better responsibility for the welfare of their birds during catching and loading, and the rough upside down method being phased out and replaced by more humane upright methods.