The RSPCA is launching a £130,000 advertising campaign designed to shock consumers into changing their chicken buying habits.
The animal welfare group said a Mori survey of 2,000 adults it commissioned last November found that 70 per cent of people considered chicken to be the healthiest meat on supermarket shelves.
However, RSPCA bosses claimed that behind this positive image lay cruel industrial farming techniques that led to 100,000 broilers dying prematurely every day.
Caroline Le Sueur, RSPCA senior scientific officer, said: “No law dictates fundamental welfare concerns like how much space must be given to
the birds or what environmental conditions are appropriate.”
The RSPCA said it would lobby the EU for higher welfare standards across Europe. It wanted farmers to be required to reduce stocking density, extend night-time hours, provide more light during the day and encourage greater activity.
The European Commission is shortly to publish a consultation on a code for broiler farming.
In the meantime the RSPCA’s ads, which will appear in newspapers from this Sunday and in cinemas around the country, will urge consumers to opt for higher welfare chicken, such as that produced under the RSPCA-backed Freedom Food assurance scheme.
But farmers’ leaders were scathing about the campaign. National Farmers’ Union poultry board chairman Charles Bourns - himself an industrial chicken producer - said the advertisements would harm the entire chicken industry.
“The RSPCA should not promote Freedom Food chicken by frightening consumers as they get confused and stop eating chicken altogether,” he said. “They should promote Freedom Food chicken on its own merits.”
Richard Clarke