A motion has been proposed to Co-op members calling on the retailer to improve chicken welfare. The member-led motion is set to be aired at the retailer’s annual general meeting on 20 May.
Signed by 400 Co-op members, the motion calls on the supermarket to adopt the Better Chicken Commitment – a welfare policy designed by experts to improve the lives of broilers. Firms that adopt the policy commit to replacing fast-growing breeds with healthier, slower-growing birds and give them more space, natural light and enrichments.
At present, only 2% of the Co-ops broilers are reared to higher welfare standards, as opposed to 100% of their laying hens and pigs.
Aaron Parr, senior campaigner at The Humane League and Co-op member, said the Co-op is unique in its democratic and progressive values: “These have historically extended to animal welfare. But the fact that chickens raised for meat – our most farmed animal in the UK – have been left out of Co-ops purview is a massive oversight. Co-op’s policy says that we have a “pioneering” approach to animal welfare. But to maintain that badge of honour, our Co-op must improve farming practices and give all chickens better lives.”
Members can vote on the motion online until 15 May or in person at the annual meeting.
The Humane League said the move was not an effort to shame Co-op, simply an attempt to energise the rest of the members and leadership to do the right thing. The Co-op said at the end of last year’s annual meeting that price was the biggest barrier for them to join the Better Chicken Commitment. But this was before Marks and Spencer fulfilled its commitment – 4 years early and with no extra cost to consumers.
The charity is also continuing the campaign to get Morrisons to end their use of fast-growing birds. It has also launched a judicial review claiming the government has an unlawful policy of permitting the rearing of fast-growing breeds. It claims fast-growing breeds are illegal because their genes cause detriment to their health and welfare – something the law forbids. The case is due to be heard in the High Court on 3 and 4 May.
Over 350 businesses in the UK and EU have committed to the Better Chicken Commitment so far, including KFC, Nando’s, Greggs, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose.