RSPCA Calls for End to Cruelty to Chickens

UK - The British Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has launched a new campaign to improve the welfare of chicken bred for meat.
calendar icon 2 January 2008
clock icon 4 minute read
The RSPCA want only free-range, organic and Freedom Food chicken to be sold

Shoppers are being urged to upgrade to higher welfare chicken and sign a new online petition calling for retailers to ditch 'standard' chickens as part of a new RSPCA campaign.

The campaign comes at a time when celebrity TV chefs are starting to move chicken into the spotlight.

The RSPCA claims that the majority of the 855 million meat chickens reared in the UK every year suffer unacceptable conditions.

Public attention is expected to focus on these birds this month when celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall present programmes about chickens and how they are reared.

To coincide with the programmes, the RSPCA is this month relaunching its campaign for better farming standards for the chickens people eat.

The new drive includes:

  • full-page adverts in several national newspapers on Wednesday 2 January 2008 in the form of an open letter challenging retailers to sell only higher welfare chicken by 2010;
  • the creation of a special website with a petition calling on retailers to stock only higher welfare chicken -;
  • the charity is urging people to make it their New Year's Resolution to upgrade to higher welfare chickens, such as those labelled Freedom Food, free-range or organic;
  • the RSPCA is making available a 'media kit' to help the issue reach the public.

Dr Marc Cooper, RSPCA farm animal scientist, said: "If people knew how the average chicken was treated before it ended up as their Sunday roast, they would probably be disgusted. Currently, some supermarkets are selling chicken meat for as little as £2 per kilo - this can be less than it costs to produce the bird. Selling chicken so cheaply doesn't provide farmers with enough money to enable or encourage them to rear their birds to standards the RSPCA finds acceptable.

"Everyone has a responsibility to ensure chickens are reared to high standards - the retailer, shopper and farmer. We are asking supermarkets to stop selling standard chicken and shoppers to stop buying it. Chicken labelled Freedom Food, free-range or organic is a better welfare alternative. We are asking shoppers to demonstrate to supermarkets that there is a demand for higher welfare chicken by signing our petition and by showing they are willing to pay a little bit more money for a bird that's had a better life."

The RSPCA says it hopes shoppers will insist on higher welfare chicken in the same way that more people than ever are shunning eggs from battery cages. Almost 38 per cent of eggs sold in the UK are now from non-caged hens as millions of shoppers protest against cruel battery farming of laying hens. But only about five per cent of meat chickens reared in the UK for meat are kept in higher welfare conditions.

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