Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 05:44 pm
Co-op members have revolted against the supermarket’s animal welfare standards following an undercover investigation by animal welfare charity Open Cages. The probe revealed severely deformed, injured and dying ‘frankenchickens’ in intensive farms in Lincolnshire that supply Co-op.
The footage reveals a stark contrast to the farm featured in an online video by Co-op, which has been slammed as a ‘fairytale’ following the investigation. 96% of Co-op’s members voted to end the sale of selectively bred fast-growing chickens at the Co-op AGM in May due to animal welfare concerns, yet the board refused, with the Board Chair Allan Leighton commenting: ‘it costs to do the right thing.’
Aaron Browning, a Co-op member said: “Watching the undercover footage, seeing the bins overflowing with dead chickens, looking at the birds’ twisted legs and bleary eyes – it makes me ashamed to be a member.”
Between August and November 2022, activists from Open Cages filmed on three intensive chicken farms in Lincolnshire supplying Co-op. The footage, narrated by Downton Abbey’s Peter Egan, shows malformed ‘frankenchickens’ suffering in a horrendous state, with some near death, unable to eat or drink, while others show visibly aged and untreated wounds. Hundreds of dead chickens were also found in bins by workers, with some even laughing as they threw them in.
The motion to stop selling frankenchickens was the only member-led motion at the supermarket’s AGM this year and was supported by animal charity The Humane League UK. Co-op member Hannah Dickson said: “The footage makes me appalled that our Co-op has decided to keep profiting from these sick and suffering animals. The membership voted to change the breed – while more space is good, it isn’t good enough when these chickens are dropping dead of organ failure and struggle to walk.”
Fast-growing ‘Frankenchickens’ have been genetically selected over decades to prioritise fast growth and produce as much meat in the shortest possible time. Around 97% of the chicken sold in Co-op is produced this way, leading to a wide range of health and welfare issues including heart attacks, organ failure, lameness, bone deformities, muscle diseases and burns.
Over 350 businesses in the UK and EU have committed to the Better Chicken Commitment, prohibiting the sale of frankenchickens. Connor Jackson, CEO & Co-founder of Open Cages, comments: “Co-op’s loyal members and customers are being fed a deceptive and misleading fairy tale. These images prove that behind the carefully polished, “ethical” image we all know, sick Frankenchickens are being condemned to lives of unnecessary pain, misery and stress on intensive mega farms.”
The conflict between Co-op members and leadership continues as the supermarket refuses to stop selling fast-growing breeds.