My enemy’s enemy. . .

is my friend, or so it says in the book of Exodus. In this case, it’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, TV chef and foppish foodie. Hugh makes good television, and contributes to the amount of soothing pastoral green acreage we get on our TV screens.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall seems like a decent bloke, and is currently in the news because of an attempt to get Tesco, the UK and Ireland’s largest supermarket chain to improve the lot of the battery farmed chickens it sells. Hard to argue with that.

In his TV programmes, Hugh has campaigned to improve the lot of farm animals and chickens in particular, arguing that we should offer them kindness in the miserable lives they lead, prior to being killed for our tables.

(Personally, I don’t get this flawed logic – why not be really nice to them and just not kill them. That’s the vegetarian in me speaking though – I find all meat-eating needlessly cruel. )

Anyway, as a realist I know that the world isn’t going to give up its meat eating habits over night, and while I’d rather chickens weren’t farmed at all it is obviously preferable that people be made aware of the conditions they are kept in and so be given a choice about whether they support those factory farming methods.

Free range birds are more expensive ‘product’ than battery farmed hens and critics of the move to ban battery farming say that free range is an extravagence reserved for the rich. But do you really need to eat chicken five times a week?

If you had to look the miserable creature in the eye that’s needlessly tortured for a meal you’ll probably forget in 20 minutes, would you really insist that it’s preferable to pay less? Wouldn’t you rather pay twice the price, eat it half as often and know that in the process you’d contributed to lessening cruelty in the world? Perhaps not, but I believe people should be given this choice, and so does Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall.

It seems Tesco doesn’t like having attention drawn to it’s business practices. Perhaps they’re not illegal but from a moral perspective, they’re certainly immoral.

(Anyway, when did something have to be illegal before a society would choose to reject it?) If you want to support more humane conditions for chickens, click through to Hugh’s site and give him some of your money.

He needs it – he wants to petition Tesco’s stockholders to force the company to improve the lot of chickens. The company’s response is to say it will cost him ST£86,000 to do the printing and postage to put his proposal to Tesco’s stockholders. Of course, they’ll probably reject it, but at least he’s doing something. According to his site, he’s put ST£30,000 of his own cash towards the proposal bill. Hopefully, he’ll hit the target.

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