The television chef Hugh Fernlay-Whittingstall bought shares in Tesco in order to be able to submit a resolution calling on the supermarket chain to stop selling broiler chickens, but had been asked to fund himself the distribution of details of the bid to its 269,000 shareholders.
Having been told that he had missed a 16 May deadline to introduce his resolution, Fearnley-Whittingstall was given until 11 June to raise the money.
Fearnley-Whittingstall personally donated £30,000 to the bid and raised the rest of the money with an auction of services and donations through Compassion in World Farming (CiWF).
Hugh told The Independent: ‘I'm really relieved and hugely grateful to everyone who has shown their support by donating through Compassion, and by bidding for my services.
‘This is not just about animal welfare – it raises the question of how huge public corporations communicate with, and hold themselves accountable to, their shareholders and customers.’
The resolution sets out to force Tesco to improve the welfare and the quality of life for their birds, ensuring that they at least meet the RSPCA’s standards for poultry rearing.
Having recently bought shares in Tesco allowing him to offer the resolution, Whittingstall fully intends to attend the AGM in Birmingham this month with the support of over 100 shareholders, totalling 3.2million shares.
The supermarket levied its £86,888 despite claims by the chef that the original documentation was handed in before the deadline, but that Tesco had chosen to send the leaflets out early to their shareholders. Tesco also has the right to waive the fee, but chose not to.
Whittingstall told The Independent on Sunday:
‘I think Tesco should waive this bill, which it is at its discretion to do. At the same time, it's clear that it doesn't really want this resolution.’
Over 820million broiler chickens are produced in the UK each year. Sales of free-range eggs have risen by 50 per cent this year after Channel 4 showed Whittingstall’s programme, Hugh’s Chicken Run, which revealed the life of an indoor broiler chicken.
Almost 3,000 people donated to Whittingstall’s current campaign through CiWF, with the auction attracting bids of up to £5,000 for a home-cooked meal from the chef himself.
Hugh wants to ensure that the chickens have:
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
2. Freedom from Discomfort
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress
This article first appeared in the Ecologist June 2008