The Co-operative Group has won an animal welfare award sponsored by The Independent for improving the lives of 20 million chickens.

Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's were on the shortlist for the RSPCA People's Choice award, which was handed to the Co-op at the RSPCA's Good Business Awards in central London.

More than 11,500 people voted for the Co-op, in recognition of its work on animal welfare. Among its recent initiatives, the Co-op has given more space, stimulation and ventilation to 20 million chickens and banned products made from the eggs of caged birds.

Many of Britain's 926 million farm animals endure poor conditions, but supermarkets are taking positive steps to improve them following campaigns by the chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver. The People's Choice award for large retailers was created to recognise stores that have made solid progress.

David Bowles, RSPCA head of external affairs, said: "More than 11,500 people voted in the supermarket award, showing that a supermarket with good animal welfare practices does impact on consumer spending. The Co-operative beat stiff competition from Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's."

The other award winners were:

* George at Asda (Large Fashion Company)

* Neon Collective (Small Fashion Company)

* Lush (Large Cosmetics Company)

* The Gamrie Goat (Small Cosmetics Company)

* Restaurant Alimentum (Independent Restaurant)

* The Duke of Cambridge (Pub)

* Edge & Son (Independent Food Retailer)