9 December 2022

"Animal welfare should never depend on individual farmers only, there must be legislation and control"

Brussels, 8 December 2022 - New footage produced by GAIA last month shows the harsh reality of Flemish turkey factories. Unlike in Wallonia, there are no specific legal standards yet to govern turkey farming in Flanders, which results in unacceptable suffering for thousands of birds and serious breaches to animal rights. GAIA is therefore calling on the Flemish minister for Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts, to introduce effective legislation to improve on and protect welfare standards for turkeys.

GAIA’s footage shows thousands of turkeys living in overcrowded sheds with no daylight and little space. Raised in darkness and dirt, they are severely weakened, and are often seen limping and suffering from necrosis. Needless to say, the mortality rate is high. 

Mind-boggling images

 No clear legal limit has been set in Flanders regarding the stocking density of turkeys. It is up to the farmer to choose how many animals go into one shed - which, as the footage shows, can result in huge numbers of turkeys experiencing barely enough room to breathe.

​Michel Vandenbosch, President of GAIA, says: "These are mind-boggling images, and as our investigations have proven time and time again, the turkey industry in Flanders is incapable of self-regulation. Animal welfare should never depend on individual farmers only, there must be legislation and control. GAIA cannot be satisfied with a few minimum standards and occasional interventions here and there that make little difference to turkeys. We therefore call on Minister Weyts to introduce effective legal standards.”

Better lives for turkeys must be sealed in law

 GAIA demands that the needs of these animals are met through new standards; including the stocking density should be much lower, turkeys should be able to walk outside, and there should be sufficient suitable perches, dry bedding, and straw bales for them to exert their natural behaviours.

​Also, slow-growing breeds should be the norm. Because the breed used in intensive turkey farming is selected for rapid growth, the turkeys get bigger very quickly, growing from 170 grams to 16 kilos, on average, in 16 weeks. Unnaturally large and encumbered, many of these turkeys end up limping and starving to death because they can no longer reach their food and water. They are also unable to clean their feathers, which is a vital need.

"The situation on turkey farms in Flanders is outrageous. There must be concrete, strict and animal-oriented legal standards that effectively safeguard turkey welfare, otherwise, it would be better to close these turkey farms entirely," concludes Michel Vandenbosch.