Chicken campaigners have bone to pick with RSPCA

JPCT 030312  Protest demonstration outside RSPCA HQ, Southwater, by Essex Animal Defenders over inefficacy of the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme. photo by derek martin

JPCT 030312 Protest demonstration outside RSPCA HQ, Southwater, by Essex Animal Defenders over inefficacy of the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme. photo by derek martin

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ANIMAL welfare activists swarmed to the RSPCA headquarters in Southwater last week to ‘express dissatisfaction’ at the Freedom Foods scheme.

Campaigners known as the Essex Animal Defenders donned chicken outfits and wielded dead pig signs outside the Wilberforce Way office on Friday morning.

JPCT 030312  Protest demonstration outside RSPCA HQ, Southwater, by Essex Animal Defenders over inefficacy of the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme. photo by derek martin

JPCT 030312 Protest demonstration outside RSPCA HQ, Southwater, by Essex Animal Defenders over inefficacy of the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme. photo by derek martin

The group have scrutinised the scheme - a farm assurance and food labelling initiative focusing on improving the welfare of farm animals reared for food - and argue reared animals have been subjected to poor conditions. It follows the release of secret footage last year allegedly showing cruelty to animals at Cheale Meats abattoir.

Protesters had the opportunity to put their concerns to the chief executive of the RSPCA Gavin Grant. A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: “Gavin Grant was happy to meet with members of Essex Animal Defenders and listen to their concerns as we share a lot of common ground in other areas of animal welfare.

“Just like Essex Animal Defenders the RSPCA was shocked and appalled by the footage filmed at Cheale Meats abattoir last year. The abattoir was suspended from the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme immediately. Cheale Meats re-joined the Freedom Food scheme following a very rigorous reassessment process in which it had to demonstrate that previous animal welfare failings had been addressed.

“The abattoir has been monitored closely by both the RSPCA and Freedom Food since being readmitted to the scheme. It has already undergone an extra three unannounced visits by RSPCA staff. Any breaches of the RSPCA welfare standards will lead to immediate action being taken.”

The RSPCA is working hard to try and improve the lives of the 900 million farm animals reared in the UK every year, she said. “Individual farms, abattoirs or people can always let us down - but these are very rare cases, and for every animal shown on covertly-filmed video of alleged malpractice, there are millions more who’ve had a better life, thanks to Freedom Food.

“We firmly believe that if you want to help farm animals, Freedom Food is the best scheme in Britain to support.”