Activists criticized the supermarket chain Morrisons for selling genetically modified chicken that they claim to have suffered”extreme torture“.
As part of a national campaign, the association for the protection of animals “open cages” took over 21 Morrisons stores and the company’s headquarters in Bradford during the National Day weekend in May. They were protesting the sale of the chain of “sausages“, birds genetically engineered to grow 400% faster than normal to maximize profits.
“Big sick birds crumbling in their own droppings on overcrowded factory farms“, wrote Open Cages in a Facebook post.
Last year, the campaign group discovered, while filming undercover, that chickens were being raised in appalling conditions on four farms that supplied Morrisons. Since then, Open Cages launched a campaign to close the sale of these genetically modified birds.
Morrisons says he cares “deeply about animal welfare” and that all of his regular chickens are raised to higher standards than red tractor. Open Cages says the supermarket is continuing this practice.
What is the probability that your supermarket sells “frankenchicken”?
According to big ones The Humanitarian Leaguean estimated 90% of chickens raised for meat in the UK grow to abnormally large sizes, resulting in extreme suffering.
These chickens are growing 400% faster than they were in the 1950s because farmers were allowed to select animals to maximize profits.
“This creates a host of health and wellness issues.“, explains Amro Hussain, head of public relations at Humane League UK.
“This causes them to collapse under their own weight, suffer from painful leg conditions, burn their skin from remaining in their own excrement, suffer from muscle ailments.”
“You couldn’t be further from what the public generally thinks chickens are. healthy and vigorous“.
This growth is equivalent to that of a human baby who would reach the weight of an adult tiger in two months.
In addition to being blatantly cruel and pervasive, this practice is also against the law, according to the Humane League legal team. That’s why the charity is seeking judicial review, urging the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to act.
How can farmers raise chickens in such large sizes?
UK law states that animals can only be kept for breeding purposes if their genetic characteristics have no adverse effect on their health or well-being.
But most chickens raised for meat, some 900 million birds, grow so fast their bodies can’t keep up. Many animals are therefore unable to walk, move or live comfortably.
Just watch the video footage of these birds struggling to keep their heads up and covered in sores to realize that their health and well-being is taking a toll. However, this practice is widespread today – and it doesn’t seem to pose a problem for lawmakers.
“Most people don’t do much scrutiny“, explains Edie Bowles, attorney at the Best Chicken Compromise alongside the Humane League, “they don’t look at which laws are correctly applied and which laws are not“.
I ask Mrs. Bowles where the responsibility in this matter lies; What body or institution should control agricultural practices?
“There’s a real problem on every level in this country“, she says, “Often the laws that exist to protect animals are often left to a charity such as the RSPCA to enforce..”
Bowles points out the hypocrisy here.
“This is obviously not the case with human-related crimes. To be sure, we have a ‘pass the buck’ attitude towards animal crimes in this country, which has resulted in poor enforcement of animal protection laws..”
Hussain supports this view, explaining that even people who are not concerned about animal welfare should be concerned about government inaction in this area.
“Imagine any other government official simply saying, ‘No ! I will allow this without regard to the fact that the law is clearly written“. I think this is a very disturbing abdication of responsibility..”
The legal case is presented based on three main arguments.
First, the practice violates the law that animals raised for agriculture cannot be selected on the basis of their genes if their health or welfare is harmed.
Second, the team argues that there is no “sufficient control system to detect violations of the law“.
And finally, there is the argument that, in the absence of adequate monitoring systems, there is an unfair competitive advantage for those who produce fast-growing breeds. Any farmer who complies with the law is automatically at a financial disadvantage, because the “Franquinchickens” are simply more profitable.
While Bowles and Hussain are currently focusing on UK legislation, this problem is not unique to the UK.
Across the EU, similar problems arise, with fast-growing chickens being used in all Member States. According to Compassion in World Agriculture, these birds are raised to slaughter weight in less than six weeks, less than half the time it would naturally take.
What can consumers do to avoid buying “Frankenchickens”?
if avoid buying meat is the easiest way to stop supporting the cruelty of fast growing farms, not everyone will necessarily give up meat altogether.
So there are still options for those who want to eat chicken but do as little damage as possible.
“There is a set of patterns called “Best Chicken Compromise“, which guarantees better welfare for the chickens and the use of slow-growing breeds“, explains Mr. Hussain.
“Hundreds of companies have already signed up, including KFC and Nando’s.“
Big supermarkets like Waitrose and Marks & Spencer have also signed this pledge.
“But many supermarkets and other companies are groveling and essentially profiting from this cruelty.“, adds Mr. Hussain.
He cites the British supermarket chain Morrison’s as a key example.
“We had a long campaign last year against Morrison’s, trying to get them to act, be and the health of their products.
“But investigations have shown the extraordinary suffering of the Frankenchicken chickens supplied to Morrison’s“, explains Mr. Hussain.
right in the middle of worst cost of living crisis that the UK has seen in recent decades, critics may argue that consumers have no choice but to buy cheaper meat, even if it means supporting “Frankenchickens”.
But Hussain disagrees.
“Our view is that it is important to remember that we are talking about extreme animal cruelty in the context of supermarkets that profit a lot – and that also profit a lot thanks to the pandemic. “, he says.
We have to ask ourselves, as a society, are we ready for these companies to say, “Well if you want affordable products they must be nightmare animal cruelty so we can keep our profits.“.
“We find it unacceptable that this is passed on to consumers.”
Hussain suggests that consumers write to their lawmakers and government officials demanding that these companies take appropriate action and stop making money from blatant cruelty.
Article translated from English