Campaigning to curb supermarket power

Animal Welfare

Supermarkets have enormous influence over the animal welfare standards used to produce the meat, milk and eggs they sell. The vast majority of fresh animal produce in major supermarkets is sold under company own labels, where they have direct control over how the animals are reared and slaughtered (CIWF, 2002).

It should be noted that as a result of supermarket buying power, which drives down prices paid to suppliers, farmers are expected to work to impossibly small margins. In many cases they have no option but to intensify production in order to try and cover their costs. In addition, many of the big supermarkets have forced farmers into direct supply contracts via favoured slaughterhouses. The decline in the number of slaughterhouses and livestock markets means that animals must often travel long distances by truck to be slaughtered. This capture and control of the whole food supply chain by the supermarkets is a major contributor to poor animal welfare.

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) survey on farm animal welfare standards.

CIWF's biennial survey of welfare standards includes performance tables on a range of issues from animal transport to supermarket investment in farm animal welfare research. Waitrose, with the highest overall score in the 2011 survey, are the current holders of the "Compassionate Supermarket of the Year" title.  

Viva!'s investigations into animal welfare
Viva have run a number of campaigns against the practices of leading supermarkets. In 2006 Viva! made a complaint, supported by the Food Standards Agency, about Tesco packaging on own-label duck products, which were misleading customers. The packaging suggested that the birds were reared free-range, but Viva! provided evidence that the they were housed in industrial sheds with no outdoor access. Trading Standards upheld the complaint. For further information please see Viva!'s press release.

In 2003, Viva! undertook an undercover investigation into Bowes of Norfolk, a pig farm supplying Tesco, which revealed severe animal suffering. A follow-up investigation in 2004 revealed continued animal suffering including sows still confined to farrowing crates, overcrowding and lame pigs. Despite suggesting that a meeting might be useful, Tesco apparently found “one excuse after another not to actually hold one.” In response Viva! Held a Day of Action in August 2004 with demonstrations at 90 Tesco stores.

Viva have also campaigned on Tesco sales of foie gras in Hungary, and a campaign against the sale of live turtles.

Tesco selling live turtles and frogs abroad

According to the Tortoise Trust  and Care for the Wild International Tesco is involved in selling live turtles and live frogs at its branches in China. The Trust state that “the suffering inflicted on these animals is so extreme that were it to take place in the UK, Tesco directors would undoubtedly face criminal charges. In addition to the most horrendous cruelty, the live turtle and frog trade is acutely environmentally destructive, and is contributing to the rapid extinction of a number of species.

Please read Tesco in cruelty storm over China turtle sales: Store accused of butchering or suffocating animals in front of customers

Read more:, 22nd November 2013