Day of Action - 27th February 1999
Viva! has won the fight to stop 'exotic' meats becoming established
in Britain. Crocodile, bison, camel, kangaroo and ostrich
have been dropped by Sainsbury, Tesco, Morrisons, Somerfield
and Booker cash and carry as a result of our three-year long
campaign. Waitrose are the only remaining supermarket to sell
In July 1998, Viva! held a Day of Action with local groups
outside 130 Sainsbury's stores. The effects of this were far
reaching. We attracted excellent media coverage in Britain
and Australia. The event was a PR nightmare for Sainsbury's.
We also succeeded in considerably reducing the sales of kangaroo
- Roy Watts, Head of Customer Relations stated early this
year that kangaroo sales were low and if they remained so,
Sainsbury's would consider removing the meat. Viva! planned
a second Day of Action for 27th February 1999 and on 25th
January 1999 Sainsbury's announced that they would no longer
stock kangaroo meat. Ostrich meat is now unavailable in their
There is only one national outlet for 'exotic' meats - WAITROSE,
who are the last stockists of ostrich meat.
Ostriches are not domesticated but are still wild animals
and are extremely susceptible to stress. They are the oldest
living birds on Earth. Just to see them takes your breath
away. They look like some awesome prehistoric creature with
their long powerful legs and dinosaur-like feet. To watch
them move is an incredible sight. In full gallop they reach
40 mph, covering 25 feet in a single stride. Farmed birds,
on the other hand, can run from one end of an average sized
paddock to the other in just six strides.
Ostriches are nomads, designed by 60 million years of evolution
to roam over vast tracts of grassland and desert. They have
not evolved to be held captive in the cold, rain soaked paddocks
of Scotland, where ostriches are kept for Waitrose.
Ostriches are the only birds to dance at times other than
at mating. Holtzhausen and Kotze from South Africa say: "Especially
in the early morning, a few birds in a group will suddenly
receive a mystic, inaudible cue and begin to dance in circles
on tip-toes, with outspread wings. Very soon the whole group
will join spontaneously in the twirling dance. This may be
a primeval urge or simply an expression of the joy of being
alive." In farms, these mighty birds have no reason to dance.
They can become so depressed that they stop eating and starve
themselves to death.
The female naturally lays up to 15 eggs, but on the farm
her eggs are taken from her so she continues to lay - up to
100 a year. They are mechanically incubated. A chick in the
wild is never left alone. It needs that strong feeling of
security for to be abandoned in the wild means certain death.
As farmed chicks in Britain never see their parents they suffer
from 'desertion stress', a feeling described by ostrich experts
as "utter despair and distress". This can trigger stomach
ulcers and the baby birds often die.
Farmed ostriches show many abnormal behaviours. Housed ostriches
may stargaze, lifting their head up and back until it touches
their spine. The birds refuse to eat or drink. The cure? Open
It is often said by ostrich farmers that the birds are stupid
because they eat anything - coins, gloves, pencils, spanners,
barbed wire fencing and even nails. The result is impaction
or perforation and often death. The real reason, a vet told
me: "This abnormal behaviour appears to be triggered by stress.
The main causes are overgrazing of available pasture, insufficient
grazing, insufficient energy intake, lack of fibre and chicks
not having been taught what to eat."
It is starkly clear that these magnificent wild animals do
not adapt to farmed conditions. The death rate on ostrich
farms is much higher than for any other farmed animal.