Monday, June 09, 2008

Let's give TESCO a piece of our mind

As regular readers of this blog will know, I've been a staunch supporter of TV chef and smallholder Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Chicken Out campaign. He's been asking that chickens - the most abused animals in the world - be given a better deal. At present, the cheapest chickens in the supermarkets are those who have had the most miserable lives; living in densely crowded sheds, grown far too quickly so that their bodies are too heavy for their sore and swollen legs, never seeing the sunlight, deprived of any stimulus and often acid-burned by the concentration of urine and faeces on the floor. Hugh has been campaigning for better minimum standards for these animals that, basically, give up their lives so that we can enjoy their meat. Plus (and I can vouch for this myself), a happier chicken is a tastier chicken.

I'm not a vegetarian and never have been. In fact, I used to shoot animals regularly to eat when I was younger. However, I cannot abide cruelty or ill-treatment of any kind. The world of nature may be a dog-eat-dog, lion-eat-antelope, shark-eat-seal world but our humanity raises us above that. We are top of the food chain and can choose how to treat an animal and how to kill it. And we have the choice whether or not to do that humanely.

The sticking point in the Chicken Out campaign has been the supermarkets. Some - like Sainsbury's - have been responsive and have been willing to move towards a minimum standard where chickens have a few hours outside every day, are not overcrowded, are grown more slowly and are given items to stimulate natural behaviours such as perches and things to peck at. However, the largest of them all, TESCO, has resuloutely refused to even talk to Hugh.

So, in an effort to make them discuss the issue, he bought some shares in the company and has used his democratic right to put a resolution before the TESCO board to ask that all of their chickens be cruelty-free. He then asked shareholders to give him their vote by proxy to support the resolution. Well, TESCO has fought back. Here's a clip from an email I got from Hugh this morning:

'Now TESCO have told me that they will only take our resolution to the AGM if I meet the cost of distributing the relevant papers to their shareholders. They are entitled to waive this fee, and we have requested that they do so, in the interest of shareholder democracy, but they have declined. In other words, the resolution is dead in the water unless I pay them £86,888 to print and post the papers out to all 269,000 TESCO shareholders.

TESCO is the biggest retailer in the country and they can make the biggest difference to the lives of hundreds of millions of chickens. And so I’m determined, along with my fellow supporting shareholders and Chicken Out campaigners, to pursue this resolution. So I’m putting my money where my mouth is to take this issue all the way to the TESCO AGM on June 27th.
I’m going to start the ball rolling by putting £30k of my own money into the pot. And, with your help, I’m hoping to raise the rest of the money by selling myself, and my services, as well as by appealing to other TESCO shareholders and supporters of our resolution. We need to raise the remaining £56,888 by noon, this Wednesday 11th June.'

Isn't that appalling? TESCO are one of the biggest, and richest, companies in the UK. Last year they made profits of £2.8 BILLION. And yet, they won't waive the fee that would allow their shareholders to vote freely on this issue! They claim it's to cover their 'expenses' in sending out letters to shareholders. Oddly enough, they never seem to baulk at sending me junk mail every other day.

Well, that's it for me. I rarely use TESCO anyway and, when I do, it's not for food. It's toiletries and such. But now they can stick that too. I'm tired of bullying multinationals using their vast fortunes to dictate what and how we eat. I'm tired of their profiteering being more important than animal welfare. And I'm tired of them treating us all like we're stupid. I will never use their stores again. And I urge you to do the same.

I also ask that you support the campaign by only eating free range chicken and by taking part in an auction to raise the money for Hugh's campaign. Even if the auction is beyond your means, a donation of a few pennies or pounds to help the campaign fund will go a long way.

As TESCO themselves say ... every little helps.


John Soanes said...

I'd be interested to know if other shareholders face that much trouble getting something discussed, or if it was an, ahem, isolated incident.


Me said...

It is a disgrace that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is being silenced in such an appalingly unfair manner....its a real David and Galiath. I am apalled. If everyone sent even 5p he would easily make it happen. How can this be made more widely know....hmmm?