Pressure on takeaway chains as domino’s ditches fast-chickens. This was the headline of an in-depth investigation by Radio New Zealand reporter Farah Hancock about what goes on inside free-range chicken farms, and what New Zealand food businesses were doing to stop this cruelty.
The story covered the extreme suffering exposed by Farmwatch volunteer investigators. Footage and photos revealed many chickens in pain, struggling to walk, and others whose legs had collapsed under their fast-growing bodies.
When chickens can’t stand, they are unable to access the water and feed available. These severely lame birds likely died of thirst unless they were caught and killed by a worker. The chickens were found and filmed lying next to dead birds, rotting on the floor of the shed.
More than 11,000 people watched this story on Radio New Zealand’s Facebook page, and countless more heard the story on the radio or watched it on TV.
In the article, Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand (PIANZ) spokesperson Michael Brooks said that he expected that those who sell chickens to farmers would start using more naturally growing breeds, if “there was a demand for it.” So what is happening now, one year later?
At the time the article was published, Domino’s was the only food company in Aotearoa to have signed the Better Chicken Commitment. Journalist Farah Hancock contacted meal kits HelloFresh and My Food Bag for comment on the story, with HelloFresh saying it was something they were looking into. Now a year later both My Food Bag and HelloFresh have come on board!
Update: As of August 2023, The Coffee Club, Bird On A Wire, Columbus Coffee and Mexico have committed to the BCC in addition New Zealand.
Since the story was published, Animals Aotearoa has worked with local and international animal organisations to produce an Oceania-specific Better Chicken Commitment (called the Australia-New Zealand Better Chicken Commitment) that saw support from the SPCA, World Animal Protection, the Australian Alliance for Animals and 12 others. This went public in July 2022.
The demand that we have been hoping to see, is really visible now. If one company can become four in the space of just one year, how many more companies are we going to see sign up in 2023?
What is clear, is that more and more people are learning about the suffering of the unnatural chicken breeds currently farmed in Aotearoa. People were rightly shocked to learn that, even on free-range farms, the suffering of chickens is unavoidable – all because they’ve been bred to grow faster than nature intended.
As more people learn, they want to take action. That is why, two weeks ago, Animals Aotearoa launched a petition asking Nando’s and Pita Pit to join HelloFresh, My Food Bag and Domino’s as industry leaders on animal welfare. So far this petition has over 2,000 signatures.
We can’t wait to see what progress we will be able to report by the time the Australia-New Zealand Better Chicken Commitment has been in place for a year!
As part of the response to the Radio New Zealand article, we also published this anonymous story from a Farmwatch investigator who shared her experience from being inside the shed. If you’ve ever wanted to get an understanding of what it’s like to witness and record evidence of the suffering of animals on a factory farm, this is your opportunity. A warning, this story is tough to read!