Monday, October 02, 2006

RSPCA Freedom Food under scrutiny

Apparently the RSPCA (for non-Brits: it is the UK’s main animal welfare organization and one of the oldest in the world) is under scrutiny for its Freedom Food campaign.

The animal protection charity has just published a report to coincide with its Freedom Food's Farm Animal Week (25 Sept - 1 Oct). Entitled Everyone's a winner, the 30-page document describes the terrible conditions in which chickens reared for their meat (broilers) are kept on intensive farms.

It then compares the Assured Chicken Production (ACP) standard (Red Tractor logo), the chicken industry’s own assurance scheme, covering over 90% of UK chicken producers, providing a “baseline”, the minimum requirements that allow factory farming of poultry to go unchallenged, with the RSPCA Freedom Food scheme.

It goes on to say that the the RSPCA standard is better not only for the welfare of chickens, but also for the consumers and the producers and retailers, hence the title of the report.

The problem is that farms that had been certified by Freedom Food have been found in the past guilty of neglecting their animals, and have been the subject of BBC Watchdog investigations. Animal rights campaigners say Freedom Food is still large-scale industrial farming with terrifying consequences for animals.

In fact, organic (certified by the Soil Association) and free-range broilers have a better life than Freedom Food birds, but these are reared in better conditions than is the norm for the industry and its own ACP standard.