People & Planet: “The chicken came first. And it still does!”

Left to right: Phoebe Cullingworth, Krzysiek Garstka and Luke Capps campaign for only free-range eggs in Costcutters

Left to right: Phoebe Cullingworth, Krzysiek Garstka and Luke Capps campaign for only free-range eggs in Costcutters

People & Planet members have been protesting against the sale of caged hens’ eggs on campus.

In Tuesday’s protests staged outside Costcutter, the student action group aimed to raise York students’ awareness of battery-farmed hens.

Luke Capps, a People & Planet member, stated: “Many students buy caged hens’ eggs because they’re marketed as ‘fresh’. People don’t realise that the hens are not free range, they just go for the cheap option.”

The group asked passers-by to engage with the campaign, requesting that they sign a petition, confirming: “We, the undersigned, urge the Costcutter supermarket on the University of York campus to stock only free-range eggs, and we further pledge to buy only free-range eggs from these supermarkets.”

Jackie North, Retail Operations Manager for the University, responded to the campaign: “It’s difficult because if we stop selling them my worry would be that student’s don’t have a choice.

“We don’t mind what we sell, so long as it’s pleasing the customers, but some people’s priority is to buy whatever’s cheapest.”

Fliers handed out by the group represented “The Facts” of British-bred hens, stating: “There are 29 million hens in the UK. The majority (62%) are caged.”

In the hope of attracting students’ attention, members of the group dressed up with beaks and feathers. Phoebe Cullingworth, a first-year member of People & Planet, represented a free range “happy” hen whereas second-year member Krzysiek Garstka, playing a harmonica, was dressed in “prison uniform” and attached to a makeshift ball and chain, which symbolised a caged hen.

“Hens will continue to be caged so long as we continue to buy their eggs,” the campaign’s fliers state. They add: “The only advantage of buying eggs from caged hens is a saving of around 30p.”

Jason Rose, YUSU Campaigns Officer, stated: “I think it’s fantastic that students are taking the initiative on a wide variety of campaigns. Regarding this specific campaign, I think it’s an excellent way of improving the ethics of Commercial Services.”

National stores such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer have already ended their sale of caged hens’ eggs, with other major supermarkets announcing plans to take the same route.

Caroline Lefe, Assistant Store Manager of the Costcutter supermarket on campus, commented: “The sales are saying that we sell more caged than free-range at the minute.

“I’d be interested to see now from the petition how that reflects on sales. We could monitor it and if there is a difference look into phasing them out. I always buy free-range myself.”

People & Planet society have also taken recent action in favour of more transparency within food labelling, presenting a signed motion to York’s Labour MP, Hugh Bailey and Selby constituency’s Labour MP, John Grogan.

The society’s online Facebook group “Campaign to End the Sale of Caged Hen Eggs on Campus” implores students to “reassess their choices”.

Capps added: “It’s all well and good handing out leaflets but we really want this campaign to have an effect.”

12 comments

  1. We all know the difference between free range and caged eggs and every individual can make their own decision of which they choose to buy. If these protesters prefer to buy free range, then good for them, I do too as I’m sure many others do. But when we all know the difference and all make our own choices anyway, I doubt this protest will change much; it’s not like they’re telling us anything we didn’t know.

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  2. oh no, they are not trying to tell us anything we don’t know, they are just trying to force us to do what they want.

    I do prefer free range eggs, but I do realise that for some people price is more important. It’s not up to me (or people and planet) to make this choice for them!

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  3. 29 Jan ’10 at 8:34 pm

    Krzysiek Garstka

    Dear Paul and anon, I’d like to respond to the points you’ve made.

    First and foremost, what we were trying to do was to convince people to, as Luke said “reasses their choices”. Paul, you said that “we all know the difference”. I can’t agree with that. Not everyone is fully aware of what is happening in battery farms. More than that, people somtimes simply don’t find time in their busy lives to THINK about the difference between free range and ‘caged’ eggs. They are only buying eggs, so what’s the problem ? Well, you can say that we want to help them make an informed choice.

    Secondly, the point about people’s right of choice. Anon, you said that it’s not for us to make choices for other people. And you see, in principle I do agree with you, people should be able to choose what they want to do with their lives. However, when their choices are causing extreme pain & fear dealt to millions of chickens around the world, I believe the general right of choice has to become inferior to the sense of justice and morality. That there certain barriers which shouldn’t be breached by people’s right of choice. If I was able to remove all battery farms in the world, I would gladly do so, and accept all possible consequences and anger of people who have to pay few pennies more for ensuring that farmed animals are not suffering horrible pain every day.

    Apart from that I’m always happy to discuss these issues, so please, respond :)

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  4. @Paul

    Basically, what this protest was trying to do was raise awareness more than anything and to a certain extent it worked. By saying that we all know the issues behind the problem doesn’t solve it and I’m sure P&P would be happy for someone to come up with another solution to preventing caged hens but since there is none then at least they are trying something.

    Personally, I’m with the do as you please analogy and freedom of choice but this has made me think at least a bit more on whether paying that little amount extra would affect me financially and have come to the conclusion that perhaps animal welfare is more important.

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  5. Also worth noting another aim of the campaign is to encourage the costcutter in Halifax to stock free range eggs since it doesn’t currently, so at least everyone there is able to make their own choice.

    But the egg came first really :P

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  6. ‘When their choices are causing extreme pain & fear dealt to millions of chickens around the world”- that’s just fowl! It must be stopped before things get eggstremely out of hand.

    Eggscellent campaign guys! Keep up the good work. I’m sure the chickens are eggstatic that someone is standing up for their welfare at last.

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  7. I want to know which eggs have the lower carbon footprint.

    sorry to be pedantic but why is Labour spelt labor at the bottom?

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  8. 1 Feb ’10 at 12:37 pm

    Richard O'Neill

    Pro choice here as well, but kudos for raising awareness.

    The only selling point for me really is that free range eggs taste better (well, this is what I have been told by people who know more about food than me, so I’ll take their word for it).

    I still like to antagonise my housemates when out shopping by picking up 24 ‘value’ eggs from Tesco and putting them in the basket. They don’t normally look too impressed, but if it wasn’t for the inferior taste I could deal with their raised eyebrows in exchange for a few extra pennies to spend on bacon.

    It’s going to be illegal soon anyway from what I heard.

    From that most revered source wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_cage#European_Union

    I’m pretty happy with the system of consumers and sellers operating on what value vs cost they are happy with, e.g. buying highest quality eggs at lowest cost makes the most sense – and lets leave the legislative and ethical argument to elected and accountable individuals whose job it is to take everyones beliefs into account. Would suck if shops started going partisan and saying whatever foodstuff is against their beliefs so they’re not selling it anymore, and being able to get away with it because there aren’t enough varied sellers on campus. We already get enough of that ‘we’re telling you what you want’ from big companies like Apple etc., to get it from local shops would make me sad. (And start a pro-choice chain of my own ;)).

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  9. 1 Feb ’10 at 5:31 pm

    Krzysiek Garstka

    @Richard – Don’t you think that there are certain things which shouldn’t be left as a matter of choice ? For example, if I want to buy clothes which are made by 6 years old children in Africa, should I be allowed to make such a choice and add up to their misery ? And what about a situation where I’d like to run around the Market Square, shouting “Jews back to Auschwitz !” ? Would you be ok with awarding this choice to me ?

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  10. “For example, if I want to buy clothes which are made by 6 years old children in Africa, should I be allowed to make such a choice and add up to their misery?”

    Funny that you mention that because you actually are allowed to make this choice, and you probably have made it already either you know it or not.

    “And what about a situation where I’d like to run around the Market Square, shouting “Jews back to Auschwitz !”?

    a) that’s hardly relevant b) being offensive and inconsiderate is not illegal. It’s not as if people in market square would actually take your advice and commit genocide.

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  11. If you buy free range eggs but don’t think that everyone else should do so too, what was the principle that drove you to spend that extra on free range eggs? To make yourself feel better? If the idea of battery hens is offensive to you you should be against it, otherwise all you’re doing is trying to wash your hands of it.

    Choice is great, but how about you argue for caging hens? The pro choice arguement here seems to argue choice for the sake of choice alone.

    I’d like to see a debate, and in such a case I’m pretty sure that no one could justify being responsible for the wretched lives of the birds their eggs came from for a saving of 30p; but it seems that in such a case those arguing for pro choice would still say we must not ban caged hen eggs because someone might want to buy them and we must not restrict choice. Isn’t that a little absurd? What would your convictions stand for then? Would your only conviction be that everyone should be free to choose to do whatever they want to whatever they want?

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