CHATTER in the town turned to all things chicken last Wednesday as a lorry carrying more than 6,000 birds crashed into the verge of the M62 near Birchwood causing the animals to spill out across the carriageway.

The carnage meant the road was closed for more than six hours and caused traffic chaos for commuters while rescuers living nearby attempted to save as many of the battery hens as they could.

The news went viral after animal rights group PETA told the Warrington Guardian they hoped a memorial could be erected for the estimated 1,500 birds killed in the crash to remind drivers chickens are ‘not just body parts to pick out of buckets’.

We asked our resident vegan Sarah Harker and the National Farmers Union for their opinion on the story that had everyone clucking.

A spokesman from the National Farmers Union said the M62 incident was very sad but accidents transporting livestock to the scale of Wednesday’s incident are rare.

He added: “In terms of taking poultry around the country, you’re most likely to see one of those lorries carrying around the 8,000 mark of birds but they would be small chickens about 1.5 kilos.

“On your average lorry, the birds weigh around 4 kilos each and there’s around 3,168 chickens on a lorry.

“For this case we estimate you’re looking at birds weighing around 2.1 kilos which are medium-sized to reach the 6,000 number.

“It’s the British poultry industry and we work within the rules and regulations daily without incident.
“I think the reason this has sparked so much interest is the amount of birds involved but that’s normal.

“The figure 6,000 is a lot of livestock if you were transporting sheep or cows but not when it’s birds.

“I think the figure has distorted the issue slightly and all the NFU can say is it’s not out of the ordinary.

“In terms of the memorial, we will let the general public make their minds up on that and if somebody wants to do it that’s fine.”

Guardian sub editor and animal rights advocate Sarah Harker, is a vegan. She said: “These animals will have been absolutely terrified, cramped into tiny cages in a lorry on their way to slaughter, then to be spilled out on to the road to be hit by oncoming cars.

“While what happened on Wednesday is extremely distressing it has raised awareness of how what we eat gets onto our plates.

“Given the smaller size of these chickens they were likely ‘egg layers’ on their way to the slaughterhouse at the end of their ‘productive life’. Even many ‘free range’ egg-layers are slaughtered at just 72 weeks old to be turned into low grade meat products. 

“In Britain in 2012, 919 million chickens were slaughtered in abattoirs. All of them would have been transported up and down British roads in this way.

"What people choose to forget is that these animals have personalities and feel pain and fear just like their pet cat or dog.

"This, and worse, happens to livestock every day. Make no mistake it happens because you allow it to – your demand for a roast chicken dinner or a KFC bucket says you condone this transport and slaughter.

"Be appalled but do something to stop the cruelty. Visit”

Timeline of events:
4am: The lorry crashes between junction 11 at Birchwood and junction 12 at Eccles of the M62 with 1,500 chickens estimated to have died from the impact of the crash.
The driver was not injured.

11am: Commuters describe being sat in traffic for more than three hours as a clean-up operation takes place before the road finally reopens more than six hours after the crash.

3pm: Animal rights group PETA calls for a memorial sign for the dead hens and say they are ‘sorry’ there is nothing to stop farmers transporting more than 6,000 birds at once.

The spokesman added: “The vast majority of these bright, sensitive birds spend their lives in windowless sheds, where they are crammed together, unable to do anything.
“We hope our memorial will remind people that chickens are not just body parts to pick out of buckets but individuals with feelings who, like us, don't want to die in an upturned lorry or at an abattoir.
“Readers can save these animals from a life of pain and suffering by leaving them off their plates.”

Thu 12.30pm: The story goes viral overnight and is debated live on Jeremy Vine’s Radio Two show.
A Warrington Guardian reader poll found 68 per cent of readers disagreed with the proposed chicken memorial.