Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has lost his battle with supermarket giant Tesco, to improve the welfare of intensively reared chickens.
Today he brought his case before Tesco shareholders at its annual general meeting in Birmingham, where the plan secured just 10 per cent of votes.
HFW needed at least 75 per cent of the shareholders to vote in favour of his proposals, which would have required Tesco to either adopt the RSPCA’S farm animal welfare policy, or to drop claims that its standards are in line with the Five Freedoms – a result that HFW knew was impossible to attain.
Before the meeting, HFW said that Tesco should feel embarrassed if he gained a ‘combined double figure percentage of 10 percent or more’, and that to attain the 75 per cent mark was ‘pie in the sky’.
He also remarked that the way in which Tesco had dealt with his proposal had been ‘heavy-handed’, as they made it a special resolution that required 75 per cent of votes, as opposed to just 50 per cent for a standard resolution.
In his speech to the AGM, HFW said: “Tesco has said that it is at the forefront of taking initiatives to improve chicken welfare. Yet Compassion in World Farming ranks Tesco 5th in order of farm animal welfare performance compared to the other major supermarkets.
Tesco have claimed that in order to implement HFWs policy, it would have to raise chicken prices by over £1 on average. However, Somerfield’s Freedom Foods chicken is available for only 10 pence per kilo more than Tesco’s standard chicken. Other supermarket chains Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have already stopped selling intensively reared chickens, with the Co-Op and Sainsbury’s committing to cease trading such birds in the near future.
“If Tesco does not make these changes, it will begin to lose its share of the poultry market,” said HFW. “In the end, it is the moral dimension, not a business argument that makes this the right thing to do. Some things are just wrong. And claming to believe in a set of ethical principles that your policies can never live up to, is just plain wrong. The gap between what Tesco says, and what Tesco does, must be closed.”
Tesco have claimed that adopting such a policy would restrict choice for their customers.