Essex MP calls for Tesco boycott

AN Essex MP has urged customers to boycott chicken from Britain's largest retailer until it improves its welfare conditions for the birds.Whittingstall.

Elliot Furniss

AN Essex MP has urged customers to boycott chicken from Britain's largest retailer until it improves its welfare conditions for the birds.

Bob Russell, MP for Colchester, has been gaining support from fellow parliamentarians for an early day motion tabled in the House of Commons urging them to support a campaign organised by chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Mr Russell has backed the TV cook's bid to persuade Tesco to upgrade its current conditions to the RSPCA's Freedom Food initiative.


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He has also called for MPs to “deplore” the actions of institutional shareholders of Tesco plc, who recently voted against a resolution to ensure that chicken rearing standards are improved.

Mr Russell said that while he was convinced UK standards were high, more and more people were becoming increasingly concerned about animal welfare, especially on animals imported in for supermarkets to sell.

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He said: “The institutional shareholders may look at the short-term. This is the problem - many of us have long-term aspirations. I would trust the RSPCA more than I would the institutional shareholders when it comes to animal welfare standards.”

He also called for food packaging to display more details about where animals have been bred to provide as much information to consumers as possible.

A spokesman for the RSPCA backed the MP and said the organisation would urge people to consider animal welfare when they go shopping.

She said: “We understand money is tight, but a far better option is for people to eat chicken less often and eat birds that have been reared in a happy environment rather than intensively reared.”

A Tesco spokesperson said there was “no contradiction” with working actively to improve animal welfare while keeping chicken affordable for customers - especially those struggling to balance the family budget in a time of rising household bills.

He said: “We are confident that any chicken sold at Tesco - whether intensively reared or free range - meets the highest welfare standards.

“We are the only major supermarket to carry out independent farm inspections over and above industry standard audits and we have offered and promoted free range and organic alternatives for years to enable customers to make an informed choice.”

He said the chain had also recently introduced “Willow Farm chicken” - a more affordable welfare-enhanced option.

He added: “However for many of our customers buying standard birds is the only way they can afford to keep chicken as part of their family's diet - especially in the current economic climate - and we have a duty to continue providing them with good quality affordable food which they don't need to feel guilty about eating.”

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