Animal rights campaigners gathered outside a Southampton Lidl store today to protest against fast-growing chicken breeds dubbed ‘Frankenchickens’.

Activists from The Humane League UK claim the supermarket's executives aren't doing enough to challenge "cruel" practices.

They are calling on Lidl to sign the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) - a welfare policy requiring the use of slower-growing breeds, more space, natural light and enrichment, less painful slaughter methods and third-party auditing. 

Marks & Spencer and Waitrose are the only supermarkets in the UK fully committed to abiding by the standards it sets out by 2026.

Lidl says doing so would require "sector-wide collaboration from market leaders across the industry" adding it only wants to set goals which are "fundamentally and realistically achievable". 

'Frankenchickens live a miserable life'

Standing outside Lidl's High Street store holding cardboard cut-outs of the company's bosses, organiser Olivia Addy said: "We’re here making members of the public aware and asking them what they think of Lidl chickens and showing them pictures of how they’re treated and trying to get some public opinion out of them.

"They have an extremely short lifespan; they only live 35 days and they live in extremely cramped conditions.

"One of the worst things about Lidl's chickens is that they use Frankenchickens so the chickens grow so quickly and so fast that they have a number of health problems and can’t hold their weight on their legs and live a miserable life."

Daily Echo: Campaigners from The Humane League UK outside Lidl on Southampton High StreetCampaigners from The Humane League UK outside Lidl on Southampton High Street (Image: Newsquest)

Lidl's position is similar to that of other UK supermarkets yet to embrace the BCC, however, unlike other firms, the campaign group says Lidl has been "very resistant" to making changes.

"We’re focusing on Lidl because they have been so hesitant to take action," Olivia added.

Lidl chicken 'already meets BCC's requirements'

A Lidl spokesperson said: "We acknowledge and agree with the need to transform livestock farming and are working in close partnership with our suppliers throughout the entire supply chain to ensure that we are continually improving animal welfare standards whilst also responding to what our customers want from us in each of our markets. Through this approach, we can set realistic measures and minimum targets for ourselves and our suppliers that can be implemented progressively within our range.

"In the UK, all fresh chicken supplied to Lidl GB complies with nationally recognised third-party standards, including Red Tractor Assured, RSPCA certification and Soil Association Organic. Additionally, Lidl GB’s free-range RSPCA Assured chicken meets and exceeds the requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment.

"We fully support the goals of Open Wing Alliance and its members in improving animal welfare standards in poultry farming and continue to have an open dialogue with them following extensive and constructive discussions, with the latest meeting taking place just last month.

"In all our efforts for improvement, however, we want to keep our promises and therefore only set ourselves goals that are fundamentally and realistically achievable.

"To fully meet the requirements of the European Chicken Commitment by 2026, sector-wide collaboration from market leaders across the industry is required."