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Lidl has been beset with protestors dressed as chickens and waving warped company logos over accusations of conditions for the chickens at the firm’s suppliers. Activists from The Humane League UK waved signs and called on passing drives to “honk if you hate cruelty” outside the supermarket giant’s Surrey HQ in a 36-hour long protest.
The charity called for Lidl to join the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) for its suppliers across Europe, after undercover investigations into factories in France and Germany found “fast-growth” chickens who were “bred to suffer” from a huge range of diseases.
Campaigns coordinator for The Humane League UK, Jodi Darwood, told Express.co.uk: “I think one of the big problems is that many people, including Lidl’s own employees, are unaware of the horrific conditions and suffering that these chickens and their supply chain is causing.”
Fast-growing chicken breeds grow from birth to slaughter weight in around 35 days – but the changes to their biology to achieve this can cause congenital diseases. These include heart attacks, lameness, green muscle disease (where muscles to atrophy), ascites (where water collects in the abdomen, leading to constant pain) and organ failure.
For some fast-growing chickens, their legs can’t function due to the weight of their bodies, forcing them to lie in their own waste – which in turn causes burns.
Footage from undercover investigations into Lidl suppliers in Spain and Germany, acquired by The Humane League, laid bare how the birds were suffering.
Ms Darwood said: “For me, and for many people, the thing that really stands out is the fact that these chickens are bred to suffer.
‘Bred to suffer’ Protestors slam Lidl over horrific ‘Frankenchickens’ claim
The protestors stayed overnight, wielding a bloody rendition of Lidl’s logo
“For every single one of them, due to their unnatural fast growth, suffering and agony is hard coded into their DNA”.
Lidl GB told Express.co.uk that all of its fresh chicken is sourced from British farms, adding that its suppliers for the UK adhere to the Red Tractor Assurance standard, and that none of the meat presented in the footage will have been on sale in the UK.
The protest, which lasted from 7am Thursday morning to 7pm on Friday, saw protestors speak to staff as they entered the building with the aim of informing them of the conditions in which chickens were being kept across by Lidl suppliers in Germany and Spain. Ms Darwood said the conversations with staff had been “positive and engaging”, but that the protest had been “largely ignored.”
She added: “Frankly, I think that’s representative of their approach to this issue is, ignore it and hope it goes away – drag their heels rather than doing the right thing.”
The charity’s Campaigns Manager, Claire Williams, added that she was “sickened” by the images from the investigation.
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The investigation revealed horrendous conditions for chickens in Spain and Germany
She said: “These unnaturally fast-growing Frankenchickens are burdened with shocking and painful health problems. It’s time to take a united stand against this cruelty – Lidl must sign the BCC.”
The BCC requires using slower-growing breeds of chicken, as well as giving them more space, natural light, and less painful slaughter methods. It has been adopted by KFC, Nando’s, Greggs and Lidl France, alongside more 300 other companies – but the full extent of Lidl’s European operations have yet to join them.
Activists will also be demonstrating outside of Lidl stores in Bristol, London, Cornwall, Glasgow, Hull, Somerset and Oxford this weekend.
Asked about the additional expense for households of making sure to buy better quality meat, Ms Darwood said: “Supermarkets like Lidl have a responsibility to ensure that everyone, regardless of their budget has access to food which is healthy and sustainable. And implementing the better chicken commitment is an urgent measure to meet that responsibility.
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The protest even featured the charity’s CEO in a chicken costume, complete with deformed limbs
“We recommend that people choose higher welfare options if possible, or abstain. From eating better products, or just reducing what they’re eating, can have a massive impact on the lives of chickens.”
The Court of Appeal recently gave permission to The Humane League to perform a judicial review to judicially review the Government’s alleged breach of a 2007 law concerning the welfare of animals bred in farms. A 2020 RSPCA study documented a number of welfare concerns for farm animals, despite the existence of the law that should be protecting them.
In response to The Humane League’s protest, a spokesperson for Lidl GB told Express.co.uk: “At Lidl GB, 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.”
They added that the company sits on the Red Tractor poultry board and aims to continually improve their animal welfare standards.
Lidl also said that in 2019 it was the first retailer to introduce production labelling across their fresh poultry range that outlines the conditions in which the animal was reared – which it has since extended to other products.