Lidl’s chicken scandal: a glimpse of the state of animal welfare in the EU
NGOs, including several of our members, are pressuring Lidl to sign the European Chicken Commitment, following the release of investigations that reveal shocking conditions for broilers on their supplier’s farms in Germany, Italy and Spain.
In a campaign led by Equalia and the Albert Schweitzer Foundation Germany, NGOs are telling Lidl that enough is enough, after footage was released showing broiler chickens being abused and neglected on their supplier’s farms.
‘Lidl’s chicken scandal’, as it’s being called, began when Equalia released footage revealing hideous circumstances for broiler chickens on a factory farm in Germany. Shoved together in the dark and with barely enough room to breathe, the video shows droves of malformed broilers suffering and dying in the worst of conditions.
While that was enough to spark outrage among animal protection organisations across Europe, the scale of the problem was revealed to be much worse shortly after.
Just a few weeks later, further footage published by Equalia highlighted similar abuses being extended to broilers connected to Lidl in Spain. Chickens are being thrown to the ground from high up, slammed against buckets, and made too miserable and exhausted to move, with many of them spending their days lying on the floor being trampled over.
That’s not all. Today, on November 24, a subsequent investigation released by Essere Animali shows broilers tormented at two large-scale farms in Northern Italy, both of which are linked to a supplier of the supermarket giant.
‘Animal cruelty’ feels like too soft a term to describe what they are going through: chickens are being thrown on top of each other, suffering from twisted necks and other abnormalities, and are abused by workers in what are clear violations of current animal welfare legislation.
What are NGOs calling on Lidl to do?
In response to the videos, NGOs are asking Lidl to sign the European Chicken Commitment.
Our members Equalia, Djurens Rätt, Otwarte Klatki, Essere Animali, Animal Equality Spain, Germany and Italy, along with Albert Schweitzer Foundation Germany, The Humane League UK, VGT, and ASF Poland are demanding that Lidl pledges to commit to the minimum standards required for chickens to live a satisfactory life, free from needless pain and suffering.
Over 270 businesses, such as Carrefour and Auchan, have already signed the commitment, making a positive impact on millions of chickens globally.
"The images gathered from some Italian farms belonging to a Lidl supplier show that, despite the advertising slogans, Lidl should urgently commit to implementing higher standards for the chickens raised by their suppliers," commented Brenda Ferretti, Campaigns Manager at Essere Animali. "We therefore ask the company to sign the ECC, as it is one of the few large European supermarkets that has not yet joined this initiative, although consumers themselves are increasingly asking for a more sustainable farming system that is attentive to animal welfare."
What do these videos suggest about the state of farm animal welfare in Europe?
Lidl’s chicken scandal shows that we need better EU-wide animal welfare legislation to address the secret pain of broilers on factory farms across the EU, where laws are being broken and chickens are living in anguish in droves.
With the current animal welfare legislation in the process of being revised, now is a critical time for Europe to take an even clearer stance against cruelty. We at Eurogroup for Animals and our members are working on influencing these new laws to improve lives for animals before final decisions are made in 2023, including by asking for the standards for broilers to be updated.
Protecting farm animals against these kinds of conditions is also important for the EU to reach its sustainable food system and public health goals. As Compassion in World Farming’s ‘End of the Line’ campaign, launched at COP27, shows, intensive animal farming around the world contributes enormously to greenhouse gas emissions.
Further, research shows that animals reared in industrial systems are more susceptible to diseases. The Lidl chicken scandal appears to be the perfect case study: in October, the chicken products of Lidl’s supplier in Italy were recalled following an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes.
“Unless the very fabric of factory farming is changed and both corporates and policymakers across the EU commit to higher animal welfare standards, not only will innocent animals continue to suffer, but our health and that of the planet will continue to be at risk”, concluded Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals.