Turkeys - key welfare issues

We're concerned that the way in which many turkeys are reared, handled, transported and slaughtered/killed could be greatly improved.

Space and enrichment

Turkeys reared in standard systems are often not given enough space or facilities to carry out all their natural behaviours properly, such as foraging or perching, or moving around freely.

Other welfare problems that can be associated with insufficient space include:

  • foot pad lesions (caused by the birds standing or sitting on litter which may have high levels of ammonia from a build up of faeces).
  • heat stress.

More space per bird and environmental enrichment, to allow them to move around, exercise and perform normal behaviours, can help to avoid these problems.

Beak trimming and lighting

Where there is a risk of feather pecking, which can cause injuries and sometimes lead to cannibalism, turkeys may be beak trimmed. This procedure reduces the risk of damage caused to other turkeys, but can be painful depending on the technique used.

Lighting may be kept at low levels to further reduce the risk of feather pecking. This can prevent the birds from performing many of their natural behaviours and reduce bird activity.

Handling and transport

Turkeys can experience considerable suffering if not handled carefully. When they are caught at the end of rearing, put into transport crates, and during transport there is a risk of bone fractures, bone breaks, dislocated hips and bruising.

Careful management and providing turkeys with the things they need to carry out their natural behaviours can help to avoid all of the welfare problems described above.

If you're concerned about turkey welfare, then find out how you can help.

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