PROTESTORS plan to stand outside a Swindon supermarket to warn shoppers of animal cruelty concerns.
The Humane League UK will hand out fliers near the Greenbridge branch of Lidl on Sunday, claiming that the retailer relies on unhealthy fast-growing chickens.
This comes after an investigation found poultry living in unsanitary conditions at suppliers in Spain (Sada) and Germany (Rothkötter).
Chickens at those farms suffered from conditions like lameness, a malformed cartilage that makes the birds unable to walk properly, and a type of spinal compression that forces the animals to lie on their backs.
The supermarket disputes the campaigners’ claims, telling the Adver that the supplier shown in the footage and photography used by the Humane League does not provide products for British stores.
Matthew Chalmers said: “The major sources of suffering on show in those investigations are related to the breed of the animals and the health problems caused by fast-growth.
“These animals are suffering like this across borders. Lidl is a global company with a strong UK presence and we believe that cruelty anywhere should be opposed.
“These exact problems are hurting UK animals and those in Lidl’s UK supply chain. This is a systemic issue and can’t be relegated to a specific country, no matter how hard Lidl may try.”
The animal charity says fast-growing ‘Frankenchickens’ constitute around 90 per cent of the UK’s 1.1 billion chickens raised for meat each year.
These chicken breeds, who grow from birth to slaughter weight in just 35 days, are more likely to suffer heart attacks, lameness, green muscle disease, ascites (water belly) and organ failure.
Lack of mobility in fast-growing birds can lead them to starve or die from dehydration.
The Humane League is a member of the Open Wing Alliance, a coalition of more than 90 animal charities from 67 countries, which is urging shoppers to sign a petition that demands Lidl join the Better Chicken Commitment animal welfare policy.
KFC, Nando’s, Greggs and Lidl France are among the 330 companies in the UK and EU to have committed to the BCC, which requires the use of slower-growing breeds, more space, natural light and enrichment, less painful slaughter methods and third-party auditing.
As well as the Greenbridge protest, campaigners held similar vigils outside Lidl’s HQ in Tolworth in Surrey overnight from Thursday to Friday as well as at Lidl stores in London, Cornwall, Glasgow, Hull, Somerset and Oxford over the weekend.
Lidl responded to the German investigation by saying “Lidl strongly opposes cruelty to animals.”
And in response to the Greenbridge protest, a Lidl GB spokesperson said: “We take the matter of animal welfare extremely seriously and have long been committed to increasing welfare and traceability standards throughout our supply chain.
“All of our chicken complies with nationally recognised third-party standards, including Red Tractor Assured, RSPCA certification and Soil Association Organic, whilst our free-range RSPCA Assured chicken meets and exceeds the requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment.
“We work closely with our suppliers and industry partners, including sitting on the poultry board of Red Tractor, to ensure that we are continually improving animal welfare standards, whilst also responding to what our customers want and expect from us.
“In 2019, we were proud to become the first retailer to introduce method of production labelling across our fresh poultry range.
“The transparent label outlines clearly the conditions in which the animal was reared, and we are committed to increasing the number of products from higher welfare production systems over the coming years.
“We remain the only supermarket in the UK to have ‘Welfare Windows’ on pack. Last year we extended the scheme across more products and actively market this initiative to customers, supporting more informed purchasing decisions.”