Open Cages share footage of ‘Frankenchickens’

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According to animal welfare charity The Humane League, who organised this weekend’s protests, 90 percent of chickens grown today for meat do so both unnaturally fast and to staggering sizes. Such explosive growth rates, they said, can exceed the chickens’ bodies’ ability to keep up, resulting in assorted health problems, from high blood pressure and swollen abdomens to muscular diseases and even cardiac arrest. In some cases, the charity added, broiler chickens in farms grow so large prior to being slaughtered that they struggle to walk.

WARNING: This article contains images some may find distressing

Humane League UK senior public affairs lead Amro Hussain said: “For decades the animal industry has selectively bred chickens to grow faster and faster.”

“Today they reach slaughter weight at only five weeks old — they’re just babies.

“The results are huge, often immobile birds, who struggle to walk, get burned by their own waste, suffer heart-attacks, and whose flesh is streaked with fat.

“We call them ‘Frankenchickens’ because we have created a genetic monster — animals who live lives of inescapable misery.”

Chris Packham, presenter of BBC’s Springwatch, said: “The Co-op’s slogan is ‘It’s what we do’. But what they do to chickens is unacceptable.

“I believe that Co-op’s use of fast-growing chickens is deeply cruel. These birds grow 400 percent quicker than they did in the 1950s, putting huge strain on their bodies.

“These animals’ every instinct is to run, forage and explore. Instead they are imprisoned in bloated bodies, with poor health and suffering encoded into their genes.

“Hundreds of companies have acknowledged that these practices are unethical and have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment.

“I simply call on Co-op to live up to its supposed values and join them.”

The Better Chicken Commitment is a welfare policy that aims to drastically reduce the suffering of broiler chickens by giving them more enrichment, natural light and space — alongside the introduction of less painful methods of slaughter, third-party auditing, and the prohibition of fast-growing breeds.

To date, 300 companies in the food service, manufacturing and restaurant industries have signed up to honour the commitment — including such recognisable names as Greggs, KFC, Kraft-Heinz, Nandos and Nestlé, the largest food company in the world.

In contrast, just 2.1 percent of Co-op’s fresh chicken is reared to RSPCA Assured or Higher Welfare standard, the Humane League said, meaning that 97.7 percent of chickens in their supply chain belong to fast-growing, “Frankenchicken” breeds.

Humane League UK’s head of programs, Cordelia Britton, said: “We are proud to be standing up for British values and fighting unnecessary animal cruelty.

“The Co-op needs to recognise that there is no humane way to raise Frankenchickens, who are condemned to hellish lives because of their genes.

“Good animal welfare is fundamental to any ethical food business. Without a commitment to the BCC the Co-op will remain a cruel custodian of millions of animals.”

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Peter Egan, who is known for his roles in Downton Abbey and After Life, said: “The Co-op was founded as an ethical project, seeking to give its members democratic influence and its shoppers affordable food.

“Yet this brand upholds one of the country’s cruellest farming methods — the raising of fast-growing ‘Frankenchickens’.

“I was horrified when I first learned how these animals’ lives are riddled with heart and lung problems, muscle diseases, painful lameness and ammonia burns.

“I ask the Co-op to remember their founding ethics and immediately get this hopeless cruelty out of their supply chain.”

Express.co.uk has contacted Co-op for comment.

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