Intergroup study trip to Poland on industrial broiler farming

On 13/07/2018, in All posts, by Animal Welfare Intergroup

From the 5th to the 7th of July, a delegation from the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals went on a study trip to Poland to learn more about industrial broiler farming and its impact on the population and the environment. In recent years, Poland as several other EU Member States have seen a rapid increase in the number of industrial-sized farms as the meat industry has been looking for new markets with lower production costs. The uncontrolled growth of these large scale broiler farms raises serious human-, animal health and welfare concerns.  Additionally, the environmental pollution caused by these farms often infringes EU law and adversely affects the quality of life of the local communities.

The Intergroup already discussed about the welfare of broilers during the session on 8th February 2018. As several MEPs were interested to follow up on this and to get a closer insight into the problems of industrial broiler farming, the Vice-President of the European Parliament,  Prof. Zdisław Krasnodębski (ECR, PL) proposed to organise a  related study trip to Poland. Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL, NL) and John Flack (ECR, UK) joined him on this delegation trip .

Before going on field excursions the Intergroup delegation was invited  to participate in a seminar at the Polish Ministry of Agriculture which was hosted by the Undersecretary of State Rafał Romanowski. He stressed on the importance of the poultry sector for the Polish economy and the government’s plans to support the “sustainable’ development of this industry. However, Poland is planning to boost exports as far as possible, especially to Third countries such as China.

In contrast to this, several presentations from civil society groups like  Otwarte Klatki, Greenpeace Poland, and Eurogroup for Animals, clearly illustrated the worrying aspects of this unprecedented and very loosely regulated expansion of the broiler sector in Poland. Problems for local inhabitants range from very intense noxious odours, to pollution due to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and ammonia emissions, as well as constant heavy traffic of trucks. Additionally, and inexplicably, permissions to build new industrial broiler units are given even in close proximity to protected natural areas, thus threatening biodiversity. Legal instruments to oppose this expansion are very limited, and environmental impact assessments are always favourable to the farms, which usually belong to affluent investors. Funding from the Common Agricultural Policy has so far benefited the largest farmers at the expense of smaller ones. There is also a phenomenon of eutrophisation of the Baltic Sea with the proliferation of toxic algae that created a huge “dead zone” completely devoid of oxygen.

The delegation of MEPs, accompanied by Otwarte Klatki and Eurogroup for Animals, also visited the municipality of Stoczek in Masovia  which has still small scale extensive agriculture and a rich biodiversity. Local inhabitants are opposing the construction of new industrial broiler chicken units that would rear 10 million birds per year. They fear that they will not really profit from this development and will only be exposed to the environmental  nuisances caused by the broiler industry. The Intergroup delegation listened to their concerns and demands and assured them of their support.

A further field trip brought them to the village of Żuromin in Masovia.  All in all, there are nearly 700 broiler farms in the hands of few owners, with a total production of about 20 million broiler chickens per six-weeks cycle. The annual production of poultry in Żuromin can be estimated at around 140 million broiler chickens, which places these farms in pole position on EU level in terms of the number of birds reared. The delegation saw several expanding industrial chicken production units, albeit only from the outside as the owner of one such industrial farm cancelled the visit at the last moment, possibly for fear that MEPs would not like the animal welfare conditions inside the chicken sheds. Once again, the delegation spoke to local inhabitants who complained about the environmental nuisances they are exposed to on a daily basis.

The visit allowed the MEPs to express their position to the relevant Polish authorities and to gain a direct understanding of the problems raised by industrial broiler chicken production for the local population. They hope that their views and their concerns will be taken into consideration by the  Polish Ministry of Agriculture.


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