Chickens for Meat & Breeding (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB7275)


This preface is not part of the Code but is intended to explain its purpose and to indicate the broad considerations upon which it is based. Similarly, the legislation quoted in boxes throughout the document is not part of the Code but is intended to highlight some of the legal requirements. The law, as quoted in these boxes, is that in force either on the date of publication or reprinting of the Code (please turn to the back cover for this information).

Readers should be aware that any of the legal requirements quoted might be subject to change - they should seek confirmation before assuming that these are an accurate statement of the law currently in force.


Regulation 10 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000 No. 1870) provides that: Any person who employs or engages a person to attend to animals shall   ensure that the person attending to the animals:

- is acquainted with the provisions of all relevant statutory welfare codes relating to the animals being attended to;
- has access to a copy of those codes while he is attending to the animals; and
- has received instruction and guidance on those codes.

Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, shall not attend to them unless he has access to all relevant statutory welfare codes relating to the animals while he is attending to them, and is acquainted with the provisions of those codes.

In Regulation 2 it states that statutory welfare code means a code for the time being issued under Section 3 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968.


To cause unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress to any livestock on agricultural land is an offence under Section 1(1) of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968. The breach of a code provision, whilst not an offence in itself, can nevertheless be used in evidence as tending to establish the guilt of anyone accused of causing the offence of causing unnecessary pain or distress under the Act (Section 3(4)).


Regulation 3(1) of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000 No.1870) states that owners and keepers of animals shall take all reasonable steps:

  • to ensure the welfare of the animals under their care; and
  • to ensure that the animals are not caused any unnecessary pain, suffering or injury.


Regulation 3(3) of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000 No. 1870) states that:

- In deciding whether the conditions under which animals are being bred or kept comply with the requirements set out in Schedule 1 of the Regulations, the owner and keeper of the animals shall have regard to their species, and to their degree of development, adaptation and domestication, and to their physiological and ethological needs in accordance with established experience and scientific knowledge.

Regulation 11 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000 No. 1870) states that:

- Where an authorised person considers that animals are being kept in a way which is likely to cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury, or in any other way in contravention of any provision of these Regulations, he may serve a notice on the person appearing to him to be in charge of the animals requiring that person, within the period stated in the notice, to take any action that the authorised person considers to be reasonably necessary to ensure compliance with these Regulations and the authorised person shall give his reasons for requiring that action to be taken.


Regulation 13 (2) of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000 No. 1870) states that:

- In any proceedings against an owner or keeper of animals for a failure to comply with Regulation 3(1) or 3(2), the owner or keeper as the case may be, may rely on his compliance with any relevant recommendation contained in a statutory welfare code as tending to establish his compliance with the relevant regulation.

The Code is intended to encourage all those who care for farm animals to adopt the highest standards of husbandry. Without good stockmanship, animal welfare can never be adequately protected. Adherence to these recommendations will help flock-keepers to reach the required standard.

The welfare of laying hens is considered within a framework, elaborated by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and known as the Five Freedoms. These form a logical basis for the assessment of welfare within any system, together with the actions necessary to safeguard welfare within the constraints of an efficient livestock industry.

The Five Freedoms are:


FREEDOM FROM HUNGER AND THIRST - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour;


FREEDOM FROM DISCOMFORT - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area;


FREEDOM FROM PAIN, INJURY OR DISEASE - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment;


FREEDOM TO EXPRESS NORMAL BEHAVIOUR - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animals own kind;


FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND DISTRESS - by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.

In acknowledging these freedoms, those who have care of livestock should practise: -

  • caring and responsible planning and management;
  • skilled, knowledgeable and conscientious stockmanship;
  • appropriate environmental design (for example, of the husbandry system);
  • considerate handling and transport;
  • humane slaughter.

The Protection of Animals (England) 1911- 1988 and the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 2000) contain the general law relating to cruelty to animals. Broadly it is an offence (under Section 1 of the 1911 Act) to be cruel to any domestic or captive animal by anything that is done or omitted to be done.

Section 12(2) of the 1911 Act empowers a police constable to place, in safe custody, animals in the charge of persons apprehended for an offence under the Act until the end of proceedings or  the court orders the return of the animals. The reasonable costs involved, including any necessary veterinary treatment, are recoverable by the police from the owner upon conviction.

Under section 1 of the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954, as amended by the 1988 Act, the court has the power to disqualify a person convicted under these Acts from having  custody of any animal. The ban can specify a particular kind of animal or all animals for such period as the court thinks fit.

The Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 2000 supplements the 1911 Act by allowing a court to make an order relating to the care, disposal or slaughter of animals kept for commercial  purposes that are the subject of a prosecution brought under the 1911 Act by a prosecutor. A prosecutor is defined in the 2000 Act to include certain public bodies that conduct prosecutions (Crown Prosecution Service, government departments and local authorities) and any person or bodies approved by DEFRA or National Assembly for Wales. The 2000 Act then allows reasonable costs to be recovered from the owner by the prosecutor.

This Code applies in England only and has been issued by the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (following approval in draft by both Houses of Parliament). It replaces (also as regards England only) that part of the existing Domestic Fowls Code (issued in 1987), relating to the welfare of meat chickens and breeding chickens.

Similar Codes are being produced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Until these new Codes are issued, the existing Domestic Fowls Code will continue to apply in Scotland and Wales. Separate arrangements exist in Northern Ireland.

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