Protesters in Bristol have stormed a branch of Morrisons alleging they have failed to "tackle chicken cruelty". Animal welfare campaigners adorned butcher outfits and descended on the store in Fishponds on Saturday (April 30).
It was part of a nationwide campaign demanding the removal of the chickens from the retailer's shelves whereby demonstrators displayed images of deformed “Frankenchickens”. Open Cages, the charity leading the campaign, has alleged 30 per cent of chickens in Morrisons' supply chain can barely walk due to deformities. More than 20 branches of the supermarket were targeted across the UK.
Campaigners have taken action as the retailer has launched a small range of chicken reared to higher welfare standards. It has been condemned by the charity as a "cheap gesture", alleging the supermarket sources the vast majority of its chicken meat from genetically engineered sources where chickens are grown 400 per cent faster than natural. M&S, Waitrose, KFC and Subway are among hundreds of companies to have pledged to stop selling them.
Morrisons has spoken out in response to say the retailer cares "deeply about animal welfare" and that its "regular chicken is raised to above Red Tractor standards". A spokesperson added they believe Morrisons is in line with other UK supermarkets - their full statement can be found below.
Undercover filming led by the charity alleged it found "monstrous and deformed chickens collapsing in their own waste" on four farms supplying Morrisons’ welfare-assured Butcher’s on Market Street meat label. The video, narrated by the naturalist, Chris Packham, was shared online claims to show fast-growing birds deformed and dying on farms in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Connor Jackson, CEO of Open Cages, said: “Don’t be fooled by the cheap gestures and PR spin. For years now Morrisons has sat on their hands and done the absolute minimum possible to improve chicken welfare, whilst pedalling out feel good marketing campaigns and wearing only the costume of a company that cares about animals."
Over 300 companies across the UK and Europe have signed the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), a Defra endorsed policy, meaning that by 2026 they will sell only slower-growing chickens reared with far more living space. Sainsbury's recently pledged to stop sourcing chickens from overcrowded conditions for all own-brand meat by 2023.
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When asked about the campaign, a spokesperson for Morrisons said: "We care deeply about animal welfare. All our regular chicken is raised to above Red Tractor standards; we are also the only retailer in Europe to ask our fresh chicken suppliers to require chicken to be born into the barn in which it will be raised by 2025.
"80 per cent of our fresh chicken meets this standard already. We also actively monitor for any malpractice in our supply chain; we will never tolerate it or look the other way and if we ever find it, we will act swiftly and decisively."
Nearly a quarter of a million people have signed Chris Packham’s petition asking retailers like Morrisons to sign up to the BCC policy.