Major supermarket chains listed for animal welfare award

Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, the Co-operative and Waitrose have been shortlisted for an RSPCA animal welfare award run in conjunction with The Independent.

All four are in the running for the People’s Choice supermarket award which will be decided by a public vote and presented at the RSPCA’s Good Business awards in October.

Judges drew up the shortlist after studying the chains’ policies on the treatment of beef and dairy cattle, broiler and laying chickens, pigs, sheep and farmed fish.

The retailers’ records were scrutinised on the live transport of animals, pre-stunning before slaughter, and the sale of foie gras and white veal.

Last year’s winner was the Co-operative, which received 59 per cent of the 11,000 votes cast in the “People’s Choice” category.

Although the majority of the 900 million farmed animals in the UK are kept in cramped conditions and/or subjected to mutilations such as tail-docking and teeth-clipping, some supermarkets are moving to higher welfare systems such as organic, free-range or the RSPCA’s Freedom Food standard.

This year, M&S is shortlisted for its long-standing policy of using only free-range eggs, introduced for whole eggs since 1997 and for ingredient eggs since 2002. The retailer has also promoted Oakham chickens which are reared slower and enjoy more space and are given objects for perching and pecking.

Sainsbury’s is the largest retailer of Freedom Food products in the UK, selling 62 per cent of all Freedom Food endorsed food in the UK, and sales have doubled in the past year.

The supermarket, Britain’s third biggest after Tesco and Asda, will use only cage free eggs as an ingredient by the end of 2011.

The Co-operative and Somerfield sell only Freedom Food, free range or organic eggs and all own-brand beef comes from cattle reared outdoors on open pasture. The Co-op was the first retailer to adopt the Freedom Food standard in 1994.

Waitrose, which promotes higher welfare chicken and beef, circulates information to partners to drive sales of higher welfare meat, poultry, fish and dairy.

The supermarket, part of the John Lewis Partnership, also enriches the environment for free-range laying hens by planting trees and hedges.

David Bowles, RSPCA director of communications, said: “Through the People’s Choice Supermarket award we want to give the public a chance to voice their opinions and reward the supermarket they believe has listened to them and made the biggest strides in improving animal welfare. A lot has been happening in the supermarket category and we’ve seen a high standard of entries to this year’s awards.”

He added that the entries showed the companies were responding “to the shift towards responsible consumerism. These companies, who are striving to implement higher welfare standards whilst still producing a great product, deserve our recognition as they set the standard for others to work towards.”

From today readers can vote online via The Independent website at or by texting either COOP, MANDS, SAIN or WAIT to 60022. Voting closes at 23.59 on Friday 10 September.

The RSPCA Good Business Awards 2010 evening ceremony will be held at One Marylebone, London, on Wednesday 6 October.

Here is the shortlist for other categories:

Small Fashion Company
Eloise Grey, Izzy Lane, Junky Styling

Small Company - Sportswear
Finisterre, Rapanui

Small Company - Accessories
Nature's Boutique, Neon Collective, The North Circular,

Large company
Adolfo Dominguez, George at Asda, Marks & Spencer, New Look


Jackson Gilmour, Virgin Trains

Restaurants & Pubs
The Countryman Inn, Due South, The Feathers Inn, McDonald's

Independent Retailers
Abel & Cole, Edge & Son, Ginger Pig Ltd, London Farmers Markets, The Bath Pig Company