What progress are we making to Stop Poison Poultry?
On 25th April, we launched “Stop Poison Poultry”, a new campaign highlighting the use of toxic pesticides on soya crops grown in Brazil for livestock feed and its devastating impact on wildlife, ecosystems and human health.
Firstly, a reminder for those who didn't see our campaign - why are we campaigning around the use of toxic pesticides in Brazil? What's that got to do with us in the UK?
Brazil is the primary source of soya used in the poultry feed the UK imports to support its intensive chicken industry. Chicken is the UK’s most popular meat and we consume close to a staggering 1 billion chickens a year. Consumption continues to rise. 95% of broiler or ‘meat’ chickens are fast-growing breeds, reaching slaughter weight at only six weeks old. Our demand for cheap chicken in these huge volumes supports at least 1,000 so-called intensive poultry units or IPUs, huge sheds with up to 50,000 birds inside. IPUs have been implicated in the ecological decline of the River Wye, where so many of these units are located, both on the Welsh and English sides of the border.
Soya production contributes to deforestation
International attention on the impact of soya production in sensitive environments such as the Amazon rainforest and Cerrado tropical savanna in Brazil has been focused on deforestation and land conversion - the removal of primary forest and other unique natural ecosystems to make way for soya farming.
At the international Climate Summit in Glasgow last year, COP26, more than 100 world leaders signed a pledge to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. Other stakeholders took similar action. We welcomed the UK Soy Manifesto, signed by the UK’s top 10 supermarkets as well as chicken producers and restaurant chains, committing them to action to ensure UK imports of soya are deforestation and land-conversion-free by 2025.
Soya production has wider impacts beyond deforestation and land use change, though. Bees, fish, frogs, macaws, raptors, owls, tapirs, and bats are among the wild animals being poisoned by pesticides for the sake of this cheap industrial chicken feed. The health of farmers, farm workers, and local communities is also at risk.
Pesticides are a huge problem too
In January, we held a webinar for the UK’s top 10 supermarkets (Asda, Aldi, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose) to raise concerns about the use of highly hazardous pesticides in soya supply chains. We encouraged them to add pesticide monitoring and action to the work already underway to address the deforestation and land conversion associated with soya production. Their responses to a questionnaire on soya in their supply chains helped us form our campaign messaging. We welcomed progress while calling for further action, launching a petition calling on the supermarkets to remove wildlife-killing pesticides from their soya supply chains.
Our petition was signed by more than 30,000 people, including many of our own members and supporters!
Over 30,000 fantastic people signed our Stop Poison Poultry petition. 1,800 people sent letters directly to supermarket CEOs calling for an end to these practices. The amazing support has helped us demonstrate clear public concern for the impact of pesticides, including pesticides that are banned for use in the UK, on wildlife and people in Latin America.
In July, we staged a petition handover at an Asda store in Bristol, handing in a letter to customer services, addressed to Asda’s owners, Zuber and Mohsin Issa, with copies sent to the other nine supermarkets. The letter reiterated the concerns we share with you about the impact of dangerous chemicals used in soya farming in Latin America on wildlife, people and ecosystems. We managed to capture the moment on video!
We’re asking the supermarkets to act
Our campaign included a number of recommendations for supermarket action to remove highly hazardous pesticides from their soya supply chains, including action to enhance monitoring and reporting and the strengthening of standards around pesticide use and a reduced reliance on soya for animal feed, with UK (or European) protein crops used instead. We asked them to commit to a poultry supply chain free from highly hazardous pesticides by 2030.
Bolstered by your support, we’ve had friendly, constructive meetings with Aldi, Tesco and Marks and Spencer to discuss these recommendations and highlight action they can take within the Retail Soy Group and other forums to add measures addressing pesticide use to those covering deforestation and land conversion. We also discussed trials already underway to progress the development of alternative, home-grown feed and supermarket support for an upscaling of alternative feeds to create a workable UK market for them. Marks and Spencer is making good progress in this area. It now sells only slower-reared chicken in its stores, improving the welfare of the birds’ lives and incorporating a multi-grain diet, with reduced reliance on soya and its associated environmental harms. We are seeking meetings with the other seven retailers to discuss similar actions and push for the implementation of our recommendations.
Our work trying to influence Government policy
Our Stop Poison Poultry fundraising appeal raised an amazing £60,000! This will enable us to continue campaigning to end the use of highly hazardous pesticides in soya supply chains with retailers and other stakeholders, including the UK government. Our campaign report included a number of recommendations for Government, including a prohibition on companies operating in the UK from selling highly hazardous pesticides abroad. It also asked the UK government to commit to a pesticide reduction target that is key to the success of a global biodiversity framework being put forward for agreement by national governments at the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) taking place in Montreal in December. Amidst a huge amount of political turmoil it takes evermore of our resources to engage in meaningful and influential lobbying, but your help makes this possible.
Food Not Feed!
Stop Poison Poultry is part of a wider piece of work called Food Not Feed, through which we are planning a series of outputs and calls to action to raise awareness of the climate, biodiversity and human health impacts of the enormous volumes of livestock feed grown around the world and to orchestrate change away from this damaging system. We need to farm the right animals, in the right way, and ensure we, and they, are consuming an appropriate diet. Broadly speaking, this means that we stop competing with animals for land and food.
We envisage multiple benefits from this system change. They include:
- the freeing up of ecologically sensitive areas in South America and other parts of the world, radically curtailing the UK’s imported climate and nature footprint;
- easing pressure on UK farmland and making space to farm with nature and sparing land for trees and woodlands;
- a better life for farm animals in less intensive systems;
- improving the nutritional quality of our diets;
- and a fairer deal for citizens and farmers.