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Day 39 - September 8th, 5pm, Place du Luxembourg, Brussels, Belgium
Free-range farmer tours Europe in a chicken suit, calling for honest labelling: For 39 days, from August 1st, Tamsin French, a broiler farmer’s daughter from Devon, UK, has been touring the European Union dressed as a chicken called ‘Rosa’. She has visited 21 Member States, creating headlines in every nation, calling for honest labelling of poultrymeat. On Monday September 8th, at 5pm, ‘Rosa’ will arrive at Place du Luxembourg, Brussels. During a special finale event, she will present a letter, signed by 80,000 EU citizens, to Pavel Poc MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Animal Welfare Intergroup.
‘Rosa’ is calling for clear, mandatory method of production labelling of poultrymeat. She wants consumers to be able to answer the simple question, 'How was this chicken kept?' Her tour can be followed on Twitter (https://twitter.com/39days4rosa) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/39Days4Rosa).
Thirty-nine days is the average lifespan of an intensively farmed meat chicken. Around 90% of meat chickens reared in the EU are from intensive indoor systems. These chickens have little or no opportunity to display their natural behaviour.
Ms French said: “Our free range chickens live for fifty-six days, and from the moment they’re old enough to go outside they can range through tree covered, landscaped fields where they can express natural habitual behaviour. It’s important that consumers can accurately and easily identify the farm system used to rear their chickenmeat. The labelling term ‘free range’ accurately reflects the life of our free range chickens.”
The European Commission is reviewing poultrymeat labelling this summer – ‘Rosa’ wants them to deliver honest, mandatory labelling for European consumers. Research shows that Rosa’s mission is supported by most people in Europe. 1 Eight out of ten European Union consumers support mandatory method of production labelling of poultrymeat.
Ms French is joined by two colleagues: Johanna Olsson, an Animal Science student from Berkshire, and Sam White, an animal welfare campaigner from Essex.
Ms French said: “Method of production labelling already exists for shell eggs. It means consumers can tell which farm system was used to produce the eggs they buy and has been a huge factor in driving the dramatic increase in the number of cage-free egg-laying hens across Europe. 2
“The European Commission has recognised that mandatory labelling gives producers the opportunity to differentiate on price and earn a better, fairer living. I want to see this type of labelling extended to chickenmeat – because clear, comparable, point of sale information is essential for higher welfare markets to grow.”
In 2012, the European Commission promised consumers better information about farm animal welfare. Mandatory labelling of poultrymeat would deliver this, and requires just one simple rule change. 3
Rosa’s gruelling 39 day tour can be followed on Twitter (@39Days4Rosa, #39Days4Rosa) and Facebook (39Days4Rosa). The tour has been supported by consumers and animal welfare groups across Europe.
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Notes to editors:
• Rosa’s tour started in London, UK, on August 1st. It will end in Brussels, Belgium, on September 8th. Rosa has visited The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Spain, and France.
• 39Days4Rosa is part of the Labelling Matters campaign – a partnership project of Compassion in World Farming, RSPCA, Soil Association, and World Animal Protection. Labelling Matters is strongly supported by Eurogroup for Animals.
• Rosa’s gruelling 39 day tour can be followed on Twitter (@39Days4Rosa, #39Days4Rosa) and Facebook (39Days4Rosa).
• Tamsin French, aged 23, is a free range chicken farmer. She holds a first class honours degree in Environmental Geography.
• Johanna Olsson, aged 22, is studying for a BSc in Animal Science. She said: ‘Around 90% of meat chickens reared in the EU are from intensive indoor systems. These chickens have little or no opportunity to display natural behaviours. Abnormal growth rates can lead to severe heart problems and lameness. These are not the conditions most people would expect on a chicken farm.’
• Sam White, aged 24, studied Fine Art and English. She said: ‘So many meat and dairy labels use confusing language and images which suggest animals are kept in extensive, spacious, ‘natural’ conditions even when the animals have been reared in standard intensive systems. Egg labelling has shown that consumers can drive improvements in the way farm animals are reared, but they can only do this if there is honest, comparable information on products they buy.’
Notes from the release:
1. Qa Research, 2013. Method of production labelling of meat and dairy products research – Report for Labelling Matters. www.labellingmatters.org
2. Commission figures show the proportion of cage-free egg-laying hens in Europe rose from 19.7% in 2003 to 42.2% in 2012 (European Commission, 2013. Laying hens by way of keeping. CIRCABC). In the UK alone, cage-free egg production rose from 31% in 2003 to 51% in 2012 (Defra, 2013. Quarterly UK Egg Packing Station Survey). Research in the UK, France and Czech Republic in 2013 found an average of 59% recognition rate for EU egg scheme – with 65% finding it helpful (Qa Research, 2013. Method of production labelling of meat and dairy products research – Report for Labelling Matters. www.labellingmatters.org).
3. EU law (Commission Regulation 543/2008) on marketing standards for poultrymeat already defines methods of production for free range and extensive indoor chickens. This Regulation, in force since 1991, sets out the standards that must be reached if retailers wish to label chicken ‘free range” or ‘extensive indoors’. It should be relatively straight-forward to change these labelling terms from voluntary to mandatory and to add a requirement that meat from chickens reared intensively indoors must be labelled ‘intensive indoors’.