Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall hits cash target to take on Tesco over chicken welfare

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the chef and food campaigner, has raised the money he needs to put his concerns on animal welfare to Tesco's shareholders.

An online fighting fund set up by Fearnley-Whittingstall garnered more than £75,000 in just two days, exceeding the amount he needed and comfortably meeting the supermarket's deadline today. Almost 3,000 individuals made donations, with one person paying £20,000.

The money has helped foot Tesco's £86,888 bill for circulating a resolution on chicken welfare to its shareholders at its annual meeting later this month.

As part of the campaign to raise standards for the UK's 800 million broiler chickens, Fearnley-Whittingstall is demanding Tesco meet RSPCA standards on chicken or abandon its claim to fulfil the Government's aspirations on animal welfare.

Fearnley-Whittingstall sent in the motion before the deadline of 16 May but, by then, Tesco had already sent out its AGM paperwork. It insisted the chef had to pay to post his lone resolution to its 269,000 shareholders.

Undeterred, Fearnley-Whittingstall offered to pay £30,000 himself and asked for donations to the animal welfare charity Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

He also set up an auction site offering prizes including an offer to cook a chicken meal for six and a fishing expedition for 10.

After a day and a half, CIWF donations had topped £50,000, while the auction of promises raised more than £25,000, including £10,000 for the fishing trip.

After settling Tesco's bill electronically, Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "I'm really relieved and hugely grateful to everyone who has shown their support by donating through Compassion, and by bidding for my services.

"This is not just about animal welfare – it raises the question of how huge public corporations communicate with, and hold themselves accountable to, their shareholders and customers."

Philip Lymbery, the chief executive of CIWF, which received 2,895 individual donations, said: "It's fantastic to see so many people behind this campaign. We cannot reiterate enough just how poor so-called 'standard' factory farmed chicken production is.

"Standard poultry production means cramming chickens into windowless sheds, where they live for about 40 days, growing at such extreme rates that often their bones, heart and lungs cannot keep pace, causing many to suffer painful crippling and lameness or heart failure."

As a Tesco shareholder, Fearnley-Whittingstall intends to attend the AGM in Birmingham on 27 June to present his case. He claims to have the support of 50 million shares, about half of one per cent of the total of 7.8 billion shares. Talks with other shareholders are continuing ahead of the meeting.

Fearnley-Whittingstall said that some members of the public who did not make donations were writing to Tesco to ask it to change its policy.

Any extra money raised from the appeal at and the auction at will fund Compassion in World Farming's campaigns on poultry welfare.

In a statement, Tesco said: "We have received the funds from Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall and we are currently discussing the resolution with him."