Day of Action Against the Co-op: You did it for the Ducks!
On May 21st, Viva! supporters from all over the UK protested outside Co-op
stores to highlight the plight
of factory-farmed ducks, exposed by our undercover filming at the store’s
suppliers. Even bigger than our M&S Day of Action, the supposedly ethical
Co-op could not fail to hear the message - set Britain’s favourite
Viva!’s covert investigation exposed the dreadful conditions on
intensive duck farms belonging to the Co-op’s past supplier, MFD
Foods, and its current supplier, Kerry Foods (click here to
find out more). The Co-op’s response was to try and defend the unnatural
and cruel practice of cramming thousands of ducks into one shed by saying
that ducks like to flock together in large numbers! This didn’t impress
us and, from the avalanche of correspondence we’ve received from
ordinary people, it didn’t fool them either (for our response to
the Co-op’s claims, click here).
To publicise the Co-op’s involvement in factory farming we wanted
to show the shocking pictures from our investigation as widely as possible
and counter the Co-op’s wall of spin. So Viva! put out a call to
our supporters – who never fail to impress and amaze us – and
they responded in their thousands. We printed special leaflets, post cards,
comment cards and posters for distribution to the public and Viva! supporters
bombarded Co-op’s head office with emails, letters and phone calls.
Spreading the Word
On May 21, Viva! activists distributed almost 130,000 leaflets to Co-op
customers of over 200 stores, from Edinburgh to Brighton. Thousands of
people discovered what factory farming is really like and what they could
do about it. Many were outraged that a company which promotes itself as ‘ethical’ could
be so involved in factory farming. Shoppers vowed to write to the Co-op
and many handed in specially-printed cards on the day. Many vowed never
to buy duck meat again and some declared their intention to turn vegetarian.
Local press and radio covered the story in large numbers, getting the message
out to hundreds of thousands of people. The Co-op couldn’t fail to
be embarrassed and their weak rebuttals on the day confirmed it.
Our success couldn’t have happened without the resolve of those
all round the country who took part. Stars on the day included Lorraine
Drake, who organised a protest at Bideford, and said that shoppers were
shocked that the Co-op was involved in factory-farming. Her news interview
with her local radio was aired several times. Jennifer Sharp handed out
leaflets in rain and shine at Worth Clingford. An anonymous Co-op employee
(and Viva! supporter) put our leaflets in all the store’s Sunday
Some supporters had been so touched by the plight of the ducks that they
demonstrated for the first time and others were so determined to help that
they staged lone protests when no one else was available. It was a magnificent
response to our call to action and a great reminder that one determined
person can achieve great things.
The Co-op’s Responsibility
There are no high standards on a factory farm and nothing the Co-op says
can alter this. In their miserable, seven-week existence these dirty, dejected
birds never know the freedom of open water, never feel the sun on their
backs and never have any contact with their mothers. Their biological needs
are cruelly ignored. The Co-op’s claims of being ethical ring extremely
They have tried to diminish their culpability by saying that not all of
their stores sell duck meat. This, of course, is irrelevant and our objection
is to their policy of selling any factory-farmed duck meat. The Co-op may
not see the deaths of the 300,000 ducks they sell annually as significant,
but Viva! does.
So far, the Co-op has told us it does not intend to introduce free-range
ducks in the near future but intends to replace its existing standards
with the newly-drawn up RSPCA Freedom Food standards for ducks, probably
within six months. This is less than impressive and, on the basis of our
past experiences, almost meaningless. The Freedom Food scheme claims to
set the highest animal welfare standards when in fact they fall well short
the Soil Association’s standards and are usually little better than
the legal minimum requirements. Despite the word ‘Freedom’,
the scheme approves intensive, factory farming and does not in any way
guarantee that the birds will be free-range. BBC Watchdog and other programme
producers have filmed inside Freedom Food farms and exposed appalling conditions.
Freedom Foods have refused our requests to see these new standards prior
to publication in July. Having stated they will not be introducing free-range
birds, we can be fairly confident that, despite carrying the name Freedom
Food, ducks from the Co-op will in future still be reared in large sheds
providing no outside access and no water for swimming. As things stand,
the Co-op appears to be playing a game of PR bluff.
Viva! has shamed the Co-op by showing how its ducks are reared and, at
least where animals are concerned, exposing its claims of being an ‘ethical
trader’ as meaningless. The public was justifiably shocked
at the level of animal suffering and many agreed with us, that denying
ducks access to water is nothing more than legalised animal abuse. The
producers know it, the Co-op know it, they just didn’t want their
customers to know it. But now thanks to you, they do!
We never lose sight of the fact that all supermarkets sell factory farmed
ducks, not just the Co-op, and that’s why we are already planning
to move the campaign forward.
So many people took part in the Day of Action that we haven’t
the space to name them all but we will be in touch with everyone very shortly.
If you organised a demo; took part in one; distributed leaflets in your
workplace, school or neighbourhood or supported the day in any other way,
we thank you most sincerely. Your support is vital to the work we do.
|Click above to watch Jake's story
Please contact the Co-op to
register your protest at their involvement in animal suffering,
and ask them to stop selling duck meat.
Do you bank with the Co-op? Find out what you can do to help the ducks here
response to the Co-op's standard reply.
or 'cop-out'? Prove your ethical mettle, Co-op, clear the shelves
of factory farmed ducks immediately!
fair trade for ducks in the Co-op - it's time to put the ethics
back into your retailing! Save these beautiful creatures from
a life of misery and early death. Say no to factory farmed