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.”