Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I've Seen the Battery Farm Horror - and Jamie's Right

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I've Seen the Battery Farm Horror - and Jamie's Right

Article excerpt


HILLARY'S not the only one who's been blubbing. In Hugh's Chicken Run,the ladies taken into Fearnley- Whittingstall's intensive chicken farm becameweepy. And in Jamie's Fowl Dinners, broadcast tonight, he brings some of hisguests to tears by gassing male chicks in front of them.

The supermarkets are obviously running scared, because they have paid forfull-page advertisements claiming that they are ever so kind to the chickensthey sell.

"Sainsbury's is working hard to continually improve welfare standards", Jamie'sown employer tells us. The Co-op has taken a different but equally desperateapproach: "We believe that happy and healthy chickens result in moist andflavoursome meat ... Just the thing when you're looking for a littletenderness." None of these ads are illustrated, as logically they should be,with images of the birds scratching happily in the great outdoors. Instead,we're presented only with the finished item, fresh out of the oven. For Britishconsumers do not respond well to being reminded of the live animals they eat.

It is this aversion that has permitted the vast and disgusting industry offactory farming to f lourish in this country, where we eat 750 million birds ayear, only two or three per cent of them free range. We choose not to lookinside these sheds, where cruelty to animals is practised on such a giganticscale, preferring instead to agitate about fox-hunting.

As it happens, I do know what I am talking about. I spent the year betweenschool and university working, 12 days out of 14, in a battery chicken farmthat produced the eggs for hatching on to broilers. The world inside thesesheds was hellish: stinking, hot, dimly lit, deep in shit. The birds were alldemented, often smothering each other in panic, and whenever one becameinjured, furiously cannibalising it. One of the regular

Such noble men jobs was to pull out the birds with broken legs and wring theirnecks. On my first day, I was shown a tip for dealing with tough cockerelsput both feet on a broomstick across their necks and pull the legs hard withboth hands. Sometimes the whole head came off.

It perhaps wasn't the best use of a gap yearwhen I got to university, everybody else seemed to have been studying historyof art in Florencebut it has stayed with me. Even now, whenever I'm having a bad timehaving to watch a play, for exampleI have only to think that at least I'm not back on the chicken farm to feelbetter. And I have never knowingly bought factory-farmed chickens.

Hugh and Jamie have modest enough aspirations for change.

Fearnley-Whittingstall says he would count it a success if 20 per cent ofchickens became free-range. Oliver men of arrows wants consumers to pay just [pounds sterling]1more per bird, which would transform the way they are farmed. …

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