Protesters dressed as chickens mimic battery farm in a Morrisons foyer

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Animal rights group Open Cages has staged an in-store protest at a Morrisons in Wood Green, London. The protest was the largest of its kind for the group.

It was aimed at “eliminating cruelty from the UK’s chicken industry”. Open Cages claims that the supermarket chain’s chickens are not being kept in cruelty-free conditions.

Morrisons: activists squeezed in like chickens

Referring to it as a protest of “unprecedented scale”, Open Cages said:

Shutting down the store’s entrance, the activists have ‘squeezed’ into the narrow lobby to highlight how chickens sold in Morrisons are typically raised in overcrowded sheds with less than an A4 sheet of space each in their final weeks of life

People dressed in chicken costumes against a Morrisons sign

The protest took place on Saturday 25 March and involved 60 activists. In a press release, Open Cages said a number of animal rights groups are calling on Morrisons to sign the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC):

Open Cages, the RSPCA, Compassion In World Farming, The Humane League UK and many other leading animal protection charities want Morrisons to sign the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) in order to address the ‘extreme suffering‘ faced by the retailer’s basic label chickens.

Read on...

People in chicken costumes protesting inside a Morrisons store

The group added:

More than 300 companies in Britain have already signed the BCC, including retailers Marks and Spencer & Waitrose and major fast food players such as KFC, Subway and Domino’s Pizza.

Morrisons’ animal welfare policy permits chickens to be kept in conditions of up to 19 birds per square metre.

It said that according to the RSPCA, “a lack of space for chickens” can cause:

higher rates of death, skin infections, heat stress and ammonia burns from the birds laying in their own waste. The restricted movement exacerbates welfare problems associated with breeding chickens for fast growth. Known as ‘Frankenchicken’, the RSPCA calls this practice ‘unacceptable‘ Morrisons is yet to announce any plans to end either of these practices.

People in chicken costumes protesting inside a Morrisons store

Open Cages also notes that:

over 300,000 people have signed Chris Packham’s petition asking Morrisons to sign the Better Chicken Commitment.

You can sign the petition here.

Opposing cruelty

This is not the first time Open Cages has taken action against Morrisons – but it is its biggest demo yet. On 7 February, the group staged protests in London, Glasgow and Cornwall:

Open Cages has also been doing some ‘brandalism’, adding campaign slogans to Morrisons posters:

It also has a dedicated website where people can read about the extent of Morrisons’ alleged animal cruelty. You can visit the website here.

Morrisons has defended itself. It told London News Online:

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% 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.

Profiting from “ruthlessly intensive chicken farming”

The group has claimed that “Morrisons deceives customers on animal welfare“. It adds:

Morrisons claims to offer a range of chicken that adheres to the Better Chicken Commitment. However, to adhere to the BCC a company must commit to switch 100% of its chicken supply to higher standards. Morrisons’ range is speculated to form as little as 1% of its total chicken offering. This approach has been branded as ‘superficial’ when as much as 95% of Morrisons’ chickens still remain in the same intensive conditions as before.

Open Cages co-founder Connor Jackson has said of the most recent protest:

The idea of this action is to illustrate how chickens live before arriving on a Morrisons shelf. 78% of Brits oppose cruel farming practices. And the shocking truth is that Morrisons, a company that boasts about its high animal welfare credentials, is secretly profiting from some of the most ruthlessly intensive chicken farming practices available. So we feel forced to take drastic measures in order to warn consumers about what they’re really buying… Morrisons must stop ignoring the cruelty in its supply chain and sign the Better Chicken Commitment.

Featured image and additional images via Tom Woollard

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