SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Turkeys

Farmed Animals

SPCA supports housing systems that provide turkeys with choices to allow them to meet their physical, health and behavioural needs.

SPCA is concerned about the conditions in which turkeys live. SPCA advocates all turkeys farmed for meat should be reared in free range systems with unrestricted access to an outdoor area for at least eight hours per day (unless acting under written veterinary guidance) with appropriate, well-maintained ground and vegetative cover and suitable artificial and natural shelters that protects them from the elements and overhead predators.

Within the main housing, environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, ammonia and dust levels must be controlled, and good litter quality and proper ventilation must be maintained to ensure the health and comfort of the turkeys at all times. The farm environment must include effective and suitable enrichment material that allow for a range of species-specific behaviours such as scratching, foraging, pecking, dust-bathing, and perching. Turkeys must be provided with space that allows them to move freely, turn around completely and perform natural behaviours such as preening, wing flapping, and stretching.

Stocking densities should be low enough to avoid the risk of aggression and feather pecking.

SPCA opposes the selection of turkeys for accelerated growth rates which result in the inhibition of normal activity, causing metabolic or skeletal defects, chronic lameness and pain, increased mortality or other welfare problems.

SPCA advocates for the use of turkey breeds with low levels of lameness and cardiovascular problems in order to improve their welfare. SPCA advocates for the use of parent breeders, where birds are able to walk around without difficulty and maintain their health and reproductive fitness without feed restrictions. SPCA opposes the use of commercial breeds where food restriction throughout production is necessary for broiler breeders. Male turkeys used for breeding should be physically capable of mating naturally.

Breeding animals must be able to maintain normal mobility and physical health and express normal behaviour without feed restrictions.

SPCA opposes rearing turkeys in very low light levels in order to overcome the problem of feather pecking.

Research shows that such conditions may cause severe visual impairment in turkeys and consequently compromise their welfare. SPCA advocates that turkey breeds should be selected for low tendencies towards injurious pecking and management practices should be improved, so that fully-beaked turkeys can be farmed in natural lighting without a high risk of feather and injurious pecking.

SPCA opposes all painful husbandry procedures of turkeys including beak-tipping, toe-cutting, de-snooding, and de-winging.

SPCA advocates for an end to all painful husbandry procedures of turkeys. This can be achieved with improved husbandry and by selecting breeds who have low tendencies towards injurious pecking, and by providing the birds with sufficient space and environmental enrichment.

(see Beak Tipping/Trimming for more details)

SPCA opposes the practice of thinning of turkeys.

Thinning (where a proportion of the turkey population is removed for slaughter at a lower weight to control the stocking density) is known to have negative welfare and health implications for the remaining birds. If it is conducted, segregated thinning must be used to minimise stress to the remaining turkeys.

SPCA supports the use of low-stress, force-free handling techniques when handling and catching turkeys.

Turkeys must be handled humanely at all times and should be caught efficiently and in a manner that causes minimum stress. SPCA advocates for the development and widespread application of more humane methods of handling turkeys across the industry.

(see Handling for more details)

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