Hugh’s Chicken Run has finished and having seen all three episodes it’s time to come to some conclusions.
The programme itself must have been a hard sell to the media barons, 3 hours of prime time devoted to chickens and to cruelty to chickens. So much respect to channel 4 for having the courage to show them.
In places it was very formulaic, bit like those programmes where people build their own house. Things start well, things go wrong, will it succeed or won’t it? Yes, it all ends up happily, house built or in this case, target achieved.
We even had a bit of the ‘big brother’ in it. A group of housemates, sorry residents from a tough estate are given a task of keeping some chickens. Will they complete their task and get to eat a Sunday roast chicken. Yes, they did it! What a nail biter it wasn’t.
Having said that, it had the courage to show that, whatever you do, you cannot convince everybody to your point of view. Even taking people into a broiler house and letting them experience the reality of stench, noise and systemised cruelty just doesn’t register with some people.
So the supermarkets mainly refused to get involved in what, for them, could have been pretty awful publicity. Whoever had the courage to say yes to a filmed meeting was putting career on the line. No surprise there. Yet Sainsbury did make some moves and now their figurehead chef is on the bandwagon. I know ‘bandwagon’ sounds bad but there’s nothing wrong with jumping on a bandwagon for a good cause.
So where will it end? What has it accomplished?
I think it has, and this series will, raise public awareness of the appalling conditions in which 95% of the chicken we eat is raised. The question is by how much and will it last.
I bet the sales of free range chickens across the country have risen and over the next few weeks they’ll fall again but there will be some long term impact. Maybe just 10% more free range by next year but that’s not bad. In fact it’s a lot better than nothing. It will probably attract people to the idea of keeping their own chickens and I daresay there will be a number of chickens raised for meat that end up living long lives as beloved pets. That’s not a bad thing either.
It’s hard for humans to look after an animal and then eat it. There are two things we are totally responsible for, have to feed, water and keep clean, animals and children. Once we bond with an animal, killing is not easy. If it was, we’d kill our children, especially when they become teenagers! No wonder we distance ourselves from our meat. But that doesn’t make it right.