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Co-op members and board at odds over AGM vote on chicken welfare

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Feathers are flying at the Co-operative Group after thousands of its members voted to improve welfare for chickens reared for meat at the annual meeting on Saturday – but were partly overruled by the company’s directors, who said they wanted to keep prices down.A motion led by the campaign group Humane League UK asked the mutual to adopt the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) – a set of standards adopted by Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and the Greggs bakery chain – and report on welfare improvements in a year’s time.

It was supported by 96% of the 32,000 Co-op members who voted at the AGM.The BCC standards include banning cages, giving birds space of at least one square metre per 30kg, ditching “Frankenchicken” breeds – which grow at an accelerated rate – and giving birds minimum levels of light and perch space, as well as less painful slaughter conditions.Campaigners said the Co-op, which already met some BCC standards, including on stunning birds before slaughter, had now agreed to give chickens more space, equivalent to the BCC standards, but expressed disappointment it had not gone further.Aaron Parr, a senior campaigner at the Humane League UK and a member of the Co-op, said: “Co-op members have overwhelmingly voted to help chickens.

It is inspirational that tens of thousands of members across the country have decided that the cruel use and abuse of Frankenchickens is outright wrong.

But the Co-op leadership has betrayed its ethical and democratic values by clinging on to using Frankenchickens. The Co-op exists for its members – their democratic will must not be ignored by those at the top.”In a response to the motion posted on its website, the Co-op said that its free-range chicken already met the BCC standards and that

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