Animal Aid

Animal Aid challenges Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to take the veggie pledge

Posted 20 February 2008
Dear Jamie / Hugh

Animal Aid has campaigned to relieve the plight of factory reared broiler chickens since our inception more than 30 years ago. We were, therefore, extremely encouraged by your recent successes in highlighting the suffering of these birds.

It has to be said, however, that the promotion of Freedom Foods products, free range systems and the use of slower growing chickens can only ever have a marginal impact on bird welfare. In fact, the wretched plight of animals in Freedom Foods units has been exposed by welfare undercover teams. With regard to slower growing chickens, it could be argued that, by taking longer to reach slaughter weight, the birds' suffering will be extended. Equally, commercial 'free range' farming is typically not about a handful of chickens scratching about in a yard. Free range today means thousands of animals confined in sheds with limited outside access. Because they are essentially the same commercial breeds as more intensively reared birds, free range chickens are particularly vulnerable to extremes of weather and to common environmental pathogens with which hardier birds can more easily cope. In other words, the lives of these 'high welfare' birds are also miserable and deprived.

The fundamental problem is the commodification of these birds (and of other farmed animals). There will always be a niche market for less roughly-processed chickens, but for so long as animals are mass produced, fattened, transported and killed for food products, then those engaged in such activities will obey the rules of the market place and seek to reduce unit costs and maximise output. These cardinal rules of the marketplace translate inexorably into animal suffering.

Animal Aid believes that it is cruel and immoral to treat animals as commodities, which is why we promote the non-animal diet. People don't need to eat chicken or other animal products. There are many wholesome and affordable sources of proteins and of all other essential nutrients. The non-animal diet is also less polluting and more land- and energy-efficient than livestock farming. The news with respect to human health is equally encouraging: vegetarians are less likely to suffer from various cancers, or from diabetes, heart disease and obesity. They therefore have a longer life expectancy.

Given the above, we'd love to enlist your support in encouraging the public to consider adopting the non-meat diet as a contribution to the problems of human ill-health, environmental pollution and animal suffering. The whole of March is Veggie Month - an Animal Aid initiative dating back 15 years. By personally taking the Veggie Pledge, and trying the veggie diet for a week or a month, you would be sending out a powerful and positive signal that will attract a great deal of attention. Why not give it a go?!

Andrew Tyler

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