Chickens bred for meat in the UK live in cramped indoor conditions no bigger than an A4 sheet of paper for each bird, are unable to flap their wings properly and suffer from heart attacks and leg problems – that’s according to a new RSPCA petition that is targeting Tesco and calling on the supermarket to improve basic animal welfare standards.
More than 145,000 people have signed the petition since it launched on Change.org two weeks ago. They want Tesco to stop breeding meat chickens that have been genetically selected to grow quickly, to give each chicken more space to move around in, and to improve access to natural light – which the RSPCA clams encourages activity and promotes good health.
Georgina Holding, 31, who works for an RSPCA cat rehoming centre in north London and is a volunteer campaigner at the charity, told HuffPost UK she targeted the petition at Tesco in particular because it was the UK’s largest supermarket and a huge retailer of chicken meat. Tesco buys more intensively farmed indoor chicken meat than Asda and Morrisons combined, said Holding.
″We can’t stop animals being bred for consumption but we can make their lives better. If you do buy meat, buy meat that has been positively reared and hasn’t suffered just for our gain,” Holding told HuffPost UK.
“I’d like shoppers to know where their meat comes from and the life they had before you bought it. Tesco’s advertising [allows people to think] chickens are reared to a high standard when really they could be bred only indoors and haven’t had the best life.”
The petition calls on Tesco, as the market leader, to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment, a Europe-wide charter that aims to raise the minimum welfare standard. It wants Tesco to stop breeding chickens intensively so that they grow too fast to carry their own weight.
The RSPCA said Marks & Spencer is already a member and that if Tesco improved its minimum welfare standards, other supermarkets would follow suit.
Tesco told HuffPost UK it said it looks at the latest scientific and expert advice on animal welfare to “make sure we always do the right thing” and that it continually reviewed its standards.
A spokesperson said: “All of our suppliers adhere to our own stringent animal welfare standards, as well as independent certification schemes including Red Tractor. We regularly meet and we’ll continue our conversations with organisations including the RSPCA as we continuously review our standards.”