Is Hugh’s Chicken Run shocking?

Hugh’s picking up where Jamie left off in attempting to change our eating habits, but will his shock tactics do any good? The television programme Hugh’s Chicken Run (Channel 4, 9pm) kicked off his campaign against intensively reared cheap poultry products last night and is presumably aiming to shock us couch potatoes into demanding more ethical practices by shocking us into action.
But was it that shocking? Grim, revolting, stomach-churning – yes. But shocking?
So far we’ve seen the cramped conditions birds are kept in to satisfy the desire for “two birds for £5”. We’ve seen creatures treated as commodities to be disposed of for the slightest imperfection with the killing of a couple of days old chick with a leg injury and we’re promised more unsavoury sights as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall starts killing the creatures for processing in an amazingly short time-frame.
We even heard from a shopper who fed the supermarket chicken to her dog – is our food now really so poor that dog food has more of a premium?
But haven’t we seen All this before? Documentary programmes have shown secret footage from inside chicken farms for years. Peta ran its Chicken’s Life campaign to explain the issue to children way back in 2003.
Just take a look on YouTube to see how many campaigners are disturbed by the plight of the humble chicken, a casualty of our desire to push food prices ever downwards. (Warning, there are some very graphic images in these clips).
Despite all this evidence, our appetite for chicken is still huge. Figures from the British Poultry Council show:
* Every year the UK poultry meat industry rears over 850 million chickens
* 40% of the total market is for whole birds, breasts, legs, and drumsticks.
* Over 30% of poultry products now sold fall into the category of ready meals.
* During 2005 the UK imported 545,000 tonnes of poultry, and exported 328,000 tonnes.
* Every year poultry imports are worth around £1 billion and poultry exports are worth nearly £400 million to the UK economy.
So while I fully support Hugh’s moves to shame us all into demanding better for our feathered friends, for his campaign to succeed is going to take a seismic shift in attitudes towards paying for better food.
As one of the woman featured in the programme said: “It’s all very well but I can’t afford organic like Hugh. I’d love to be able to afford it.”
I shall be following the programme throughout on this blog, so join the conversation below.
Join the Chicken Out campaign here.

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