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Aldi signs up to the European Chicken Commitment in France, Germany and Spain. What does this mean for the UK?

This month, giant discount retailer Aldi committed to the European Chicken Commitment in not one, but two countries – Germany and Spain – following dialogue with Animal Equality and fellow animal advocates within the Open Wing Alliance, a global coalition of animal protection organisations.

This is a groundbreaking moment, since Aldi is the first retailer to commit to the European Chicken Commitment in Germany, where it has over 5,000 stores, as well as in Spain, a smaller but no less significant market. Furthermore, in France more than 99% of retailers have now made a commitment to eliminate some of the worst abuses for chickens, including Aldi who committed earlier this year.

This all begs the question: if they can do it, why can’t Aldi UK? The answer is, it can!

Why we campaign

Chickens used for meat are some of the most abused land animals. In the UK alone, more than one billion are raised each year. Worldwide, almost 200 million are killed every single day. The vast majority suffer immensely in their incredibly short lives. This is why we’re working with the industry to reform company supply chains.

The majority of UK chicken producers currently raise ‘faster-growing chickens’ who reach extreme body weights in as short a time as possible. Chickens today are typically sent to slaughter at just six weeks old, compared to 13 weeks in the 1950s.

These animals have been selectively bred over the decades to swiftly put on vast amounts of weight. The result? Birds who struggle to stand or walk, unable to support their unnatural weight; birds that often suffer from breathing difficulties, ammonia burns to their chest, hocks and feet caused by sitting and standing in their own waste, and heart failure. 

In addition, chickens are crammed into sheds in their thousands, further restricting their ability to move around. Typically, there are 19 birds in every one square metre, giving each bird as little space as an A4 piece of paper. 

Chickens kept in these conditions don’t lose their instincts to forage for food, dustbathe and preen but are physically prevented from doing so, and instead can only sit, eat and drink. Assuming that they’re able to reach the feeders and drinkers of course. 

We don’t need to imagine what it must be like for chickens to have their freedoms restricted. We all know, given the challenges of this year and sustained periods of lockdown, how frustrating and damaging this can be, both mentally and physically.

European Chicken Commitment

Thirty animal protection organisations have put their name to the European Chicken Commitment (referred to as the Better Chicken Commitment in the UK), a six-point ask that, when implemented, will reduce or eliminate some of the very worst abuses of animals in their supply chains by 2026. To date, more than 370 companies globally have signed up, including over 185 across Europe. 

Making these changes will not prevent chickens from being bred and slaughtered for meat but they’re an important step forward.

Where do we go from here?

Here in the UK, the retail sector accounts for the majority of chickens used for meat, so securing commitments from them will be game-changing. It’s clear that they won’t move on their own, however.

While Marks & Spencer and Waitrose were both early adopters of the Better Chicken Commitment, signing up in 2017 and 2019 respectively, the rest of the retailers are lagging behind, including the ‘Big Four’ – Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – as well as Aldi, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl and Ocado.

Animal Equality has an ongoing public-facing campaign raising awareness of the plight of chickens bought and sold by major UK supermarkets.

We’ve shown that when big corporations adopt meaningful animal welfare policies, millions of lives are changed in the process.

Thanks to our supporters, our investigators and our campaigners, Animal Equality has convinced 19 companies worldwide in 2020 to adopt animal protection policies that will reduce the suffering of more than 12.4 million chickens used for meat and eggs each year.

If we can convince UK retailers to do the same, it would be an incredible achievement. Retailers are huge, multi-billion pound companies which makes this a big challenge. But when we work together, we can change the world. Aldi’s commitment in Germany and Spain has shown the power that we have already!

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