Campaigners urge shoppers to lobby retailers to boost poultry welfare

Shropshire residents are being urged to lobby their supermarket to commit to improving the welfare of chickens.

Photo: RSPCA
Photo: RSPCA

The RSPCA is calling on Shropshire residents to lobby their supermarkets to encourage them to sign-up for the 'Better Chicken Commitment'.

The new campaign aims to help retailers meet the Better Chicken Commitment’s minimum broiler asks by 2026. This means providing meat chickens with more space, light and enrichment and ensuring they only use slower-growing breeds.

It comes after a High Court legal challenge over the use of fast-growing breeds of chickens which suffer from heart defects, lameness and even sudden death.

The charity was deeply disappointed that the challenge was dismissed, describing it as "a huge missed opportunity to address the biggest issue for animal welfare in this country".

The campaign also aims to show the public how their purchasing decisions can make a difference in animal welfare.

Emily Harris, campaigns manager at the RSPCA, said: “Last week’s ruling shows there is a real disconnect between what the legal system and lawmakers think is acceptable compared to what the public thinks is acceptable when it comes to animal welfare.

“We know that 87 per cent of the public expect supermarkets to ensure that all chicken meat they sell is farmed to higher welfare standards - even higher than the 86 per cent of people who agreed with this back in 2018, showing that this is an issue the public has consistently cared about for many years.”

The RSPCA’s recent poll also found that 79 per cent of adults think animal welfare is important when deciding which meat products to buy and two out of three people sometimes or always check packaging on chicken products to see if it is higher welfare.

The survey also found that seven out of 10 adults say that a supermarket offering higher welfare chicken would have an impact on where they choose to shop.

Last week, feathers were flying at the Co-op, after 96 per cent of the Co-op members voted for the shop to adopt the Better Chicken Commitment, but the retailers’ directors overruled this vote.

Aldi, Asda, Iceland, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco are also yet to commit, but M&S, Waitrose and Greggs have made the pledge.

Emily added: “The RSPCA and our colleagues at RSPCA Assured work closely with retailers and so we wanted to create a helpful guide to make it as easy as possible for them to sign-up for the Better Chicken Commitment and improve animal welfare on a massive scale, meeting the desires of their customers.

“But we cannot do that without the people of Shropshire’s support so we’re urging everyone to harness your purchasing power and tell supermarkets directly that we want to see higher welfare chicken on supermarket shelves.

"Over one billion chickens are slaughtered for meat in the UK every year so improving the lives of chickens will have a huge impact on farm animal welfare in one single stroke.”

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