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.
I didn’t see the programme as I don’t watch much tv but anything that encourages others to keep chickens must be ok. My gran kept chickens and so did all her neighbours (and she lived in town). She even killed them herself or else there was no Sunday lunch. We have got very nesh about this. You don’t have to be a cruel person to eat the animals you have raised, you just have to get real.
I would also say that I think chickens are really easy to keep, you don’t need loads of space and they give back in eggs and meat. Why doesn’t everyone keep them?
Well, all livestock require care every day for starters. So you’re tied unless you can find someone (like a neighbour) to cover.
Yes, we’re squeamish and divorced from the reality of our food supply. We no longer see pig’s heads and carcases hanging in butchers. Meat comes wrapped in plastic sitting in little trays.
I agree with you, it did take courage to make and show the programme. I also agree with you that there will be an initial surge and following fallback, but hopefully the long term trend will be a decline in the keeping of chickens in such a way. I keep chickens myself and I know just how good free range chicken tastes. My chickens have a good life up to the point of slaughter and I feel comfortable, as a meat eater, that I have done all I can to look after them well. I do appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to keep chickens, but I do think we have a responsibility to rear animals in a humane way and with dignity.
Karen, Wiggly Wigglers
Thanks Karen. I think a lot of people won’t have the courage to slaughter their own chickens but hopefully there will be a lot more people enjoying free range fresh eggs from their own birds.
I kept backyard chickens 20+ years ago. Killing them was dificult, but I have to say they are not cuddly birds and they cheerfully kill each other!
Hi Jane – even non-cuddly creatures deserve some quality of life though. It’s a mystery to me that if you kept a pet animal in the same conditions the industry keeps chickens the RSPCA would, rightly, have you in court.