Lobby your supermarket to commit to improving the welfare of chickens
The RSPCA is calling on the public to lobby their supermarket to encourage them to sign-up to the Better Chicken Commitment giving chickens better lives and meeting consumer demand for higher welfare products.
The RSPCA's new Better Chicken 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.
This comes after a High Court legal challenge over the use of fast-growing breeds of chickens which sadly often 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 to 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% of the public expect supermarkets to ensure that all chicken meat they sell is farmed to higher welfare standards - even higher than the 86% 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% of adults think animal welfare is important when deciding which meat products to buy and two out of three people (66%) sometimes or always check packaging on chicken products to see if it is higher welfare. The survey also found that 7 out of 10 adults say that a supermarket offering higher welfare chicken would have an impact on where they choose to shop.
Last week, 96% of the 32,000 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 make the commitment. However, M&S and Waitrose 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 to 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 public'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."
What is the Better Chicken Commitment or BCC?
The Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) is a set of requirements for improving broiler welfare driving the food industry towards higher welfare practices. The key requirements are;
- Indoor reared birds, without outdoor access, need to be given more room in order to have the chance to peck, scratch, dust bathe and rest without being disturbed
- Indoor-reared birds have natural light provided, which means they won't spend their whole lives in dim, artificially lit conditions
- Provision of enrichment items, things that the birds can explore and peck at, as well as perches so birds can roost
- No cages or multi-tier systems
- More humane methods of slaughter - eliminating the shackling and inversion of conscious birds.
- The use of only slower-growing breed of chickens and not chickens which have been genetically selected to grow so fast they develop serious health issues
Kate Parkes, RSPCA poultry expert, said: "Due to the sheer scale of suffering involved with meat chickens, this is arguably one of the biggest animal welfare issues facing our nation today. Sadly, the vast majority of chickens reared for meat here in the UK are not given enough space, lighting or enrichment to meet their needs. Around 90% of all chickens reared are also genetically selected to grow so fast that they often suffer from heart defects, lameness and lesions on their feet and legs, and even sudden death.
"Our Eat. Sit. Suffer. Repeat: The life of a typical meat chicken report looked at the health and welfare outcomes for these fast-growing chickens and found that they fundamentally did not have a life worth living. We know consumers don't want to fund this cruelty - but still too few supermarkets have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment to make a difference.
"This is why this campaign is so important and will have a huge impact on the lives of billions of animals."
The RSPCA needs the public's support in raising awareness and showing that consumers want to see higher welfare chicken in the supermarkets and food service industry today.
Please support the Better Chicken campaign and lobby your supermarket.