Turkey welfare under attack

Standard turkey production has once again come under fire after animal welfare leaders claimed an increasing demand for higher-welfare products could outstrip supply.

According to the RSPCA, more than one in three adults (34%) would choose a higher-welfare turkey, either Freedom Food or free-range, this Christmas, while just 10% would go for the cheapest. However, the charity pointed out that only 7% of turkey production falls under the Freedom Food standards.

It said the vast majority of turkeys produced in the UK were reared in what the RSPCA described as “unacceptable conditions” and it called on supermarkets to listen to the growing demand and stock more higher-welfare birds.

Alice Clark, farm animal scientist with the RSPCA, said: ““We are really concerned about the way the majority of turkeys in the UK are looked after. Most of them are kept in a very barren environment, where they simply aren’t given enough space to move around and exercise properly.

“The good news is we can all do our bit to help improve their lives by choosing turkeys with higher-welfare labels, such as Freedom Food or free-range. But we need supermarkets to help too, by listening to consumer demand and stocking more of them.”

However, the claims have angered the poultry sector. Richard Griffiths, from the British Poultry Council, said: “It’s unbecoming of the RSPCA is to promote its brand by knocking the integrity of others and using a biased view of statistics.

“The fact is that the market leader is Quality British Turkey (QBT), which is a comprehensive and detailed set of standards that cover four out of five turkeys reared in the UK. This level of trust by consumers clearly shows they know their aspirations are met by Quality British Turkey and look for the associated Red Tractor mark.”

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