Tesco to talk to its chickens

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The Independent Online
POULTRY suppliers are to learn about the body language of chickens and turkeys to ensure their birds have happy lives.

Tesco supermarket chain is to teach its suppliers to understand the behaviour of their birds as part of a new initiative on animal welfare.

Posters and videos interpreting common chicken and turkey expressions and movements will be given to Tesco chicken suppliers over the next 12 months.

Judith Abrehart, Tesco's agricultural manager, said: "There is absolutely no reason why any chicken or turkey should have to suffer during its life.

"We want every single worker to be able to recognise the signs which say that a bird might be in distress, so that action can be taken immediately."

She added: "Chicken body language is very different from other animals. The signals they send mean different things. Happy chickens speak with a quiet, contented little cheep noise. They love to bathe in dust, or preen, or forage."

Ms Abrehart continued: "Stressed out chickens will shout very loudly, with a piercing, persistent squawk."

Paul Whittington, who was appointed Tesco Animal Welfare Fellow at Bristol University this month, will spearhead the training programme.

He will help the supermarket's suppliers understand the latest research to implement new guidelines to protect animal welfare.

Ms Abrehart said: "We want to increase awareness among all poultry industry workers because they have the greatest impact upon the chicken's welfare.

"We want them to be able to listen to what each chicken is trying to tell them."

She added: "Many Tesco chicken suppliers also supply other supermarkets so there is no doubt that our competitors will also benefit from our efforts.

"We believe that improving animal welfare is far too important to let commercial rivalry stand in the way."

Tesco is funding a pounds 30,000 Animal Welfare fellowship at Bristol University dedicated to putting the latest animal welfare research into practice.