Help to improve welfare of Christmas turkeys

From: Mia Fernyhough, RSPCA farm animal scientist, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, West Sussex.

As we enter the party season, I ask your readers to spare a thought for the animals – including the millions of turkeys – farmed for our Christmas dinners every year.

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Most people will probably be shocked to know the majority of turkeys we buy come from farms where they are kept in crowded conditions, without enough space to move around and exercise properly. Turkeys are intelligent birds and they need things to keep them active and engaged, such as objects to peck at and perch on, and plenty of space to exercise and stretch their wings.

The good news is that the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme requires all of these provisions and more. And we can all do our bit to help improve the lives of turkeys by choosing those with higher welfare labels.

Sadly, despite the growing trend for ethical food, only a small proportion of British-farmed turkey is reared to higher welfare standards, with just 14 per cent from Freedom Food farms where they are inspected to RSPCA standards. We need retailers to help by listening to consumer demand for higher welfare food and stocking more of them. That way more of us can enjoy a welfare-friendly Christmas!