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Why did a farmer in a chicken suit cross Europe?

News Icon 12/12/2014

As we near Christmas, it’s natural to take stock of the year. As I think back on an action-packed 12 months, which have included around 40 speaking dates talking about my book, Farmageddon (more of this in an upcoming blog post), one that sticks in my mind is the ‘39 Days for Rosa’ tour.

Three incredible volunteers: a free-range chicken farmer, an animal welfare campaigner and an animal science student, toured Europe this summer on behalf of our Labelling Matters campaign, calling for honest labelling of chicken meat.

They made a gruelling journey dressed as “Rosa” the chicken, taking in 21 countries in 39 days – the average lifespan of an intensively farmed meat chicken – documenting their travels as they went.

Our volunteers, Tamsin, Sam and Johanna, visited the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium.

They were greeted by supportive members of the public, keen to have their photo taken with Rosa. People tweeted the European Commission to demand honest labelling, followed Rosa on Facebook and Twitter and signed our petition.

Rosa was very popular with the media and our fantastic volunteers were able to spread the message about the scandal of dishonest labelling far and wide. Food labels can be misleading, using meaningless terms like ‘farm fresh’ and ‘free-run’, which have no legal definition.

Our message demanding honest labelling made the pages of over 100 news websites, magazines and newspapers – including national publications such as Germany’s Der Spiegel – and featured on national TV channels.

The Rosa team also met politicians and supportive EU animal welfare organisations across Europe. For their grand finale, they handed a petition signed by 85,000 European consumers to Czech MEP Pavel Poc, Chair of the Animal Welfare Intergroup of the European Parliament.

This summer the focus was on labelling of chicken meat but Labelling Matters calls for compulsory “method of production” labelling on all food-related animal products. We think the label should be able to answer the question “how was this animal kept?”

Our call for honest labelling did not end with when the tour finished. The EU Commission was impressed with our Europe-wide campaign and we met with Europe’s Agriculture Ministers in Brussels. We’ll continue to push for honest labelling of chicken and indeed all food-related animal products in Europe and beyond.

Until then, look for RSPCA Freedom Food, free-range or organic to ensure your chicken had room to spread their wings and move around.

Labelling Matters is a coalition campaign, which is also backed by World Animal Protection and the RSPCA.

Take action:  Honest labelling of chicken meat could help transform the lives of chickens across Europe. Please add your voice today and call for a simple change in the law by tweeting a message to the EU Commission.


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