Today, we gave our “chicken-catching training” to a team from the Dutch Food and Safety Authority (NVWA). We shared our concerns about the design of transport crates and containers currently being used. The design of both containers and crates are vital for limiting the amount of injuries and collisions, and help make catching less physically demanding on the worker. For example, the containers of Meyn are made of metal, causing more injuries when birds are thrown in. Also, when the metal becomes bent or damaged, catchers experience increased difficulty when closing the drawers and can trap their fingers, causing annoyance and frustration. We also dislike the 5 drawer containers compared to 4. They make it more difficult and heavier to load the birds humanely. The 5 drawer containers are offered by many manufacturers, such as Meyn, Marel/Stork, Anglia Autoflow and Linco. Another issue with this type of container is the limited headspace, as this causes significantly more injuries during loading (more collisions and birds being brutally pushed in to them) and there is also a higher chance of heatstress due to poor ventilation.
We shared our concerns surrounding the current catching method (upside down, held by one leg) and our experiences from the field. Eyes on Animals has trained chicken catchers to catch birds upright, with hands placed around the wings. This upright catching method is now successfully implemented by several poultry farmers. We also addressed problems experienced by the workers including the high workload, the sheer number of birds, and harsh working conditions that make careful chicken catching nearly impossible which in turn causes “compassion fatigue” (catchers becoming insensitive to the birds suffering). Caring Vet Kitty de Vries went into detail about the current legislation, the enforcement policies and the assessment of catching related injuries.
It was a very inspiring and interesting day! We hope our observations and recommendations are useful for the NVWA during their inspections and provide them with added confidence to enforce the legislation.