Free Range

Why do we need to ban factory-farmed chickens?

Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have both been on TV recently explaining that battery farming techniques are terrible and people should stop buying food farmed in such conditions. Fair enough – I only ever buy Free Range.

Certainly Jamie has been calling for a ban. A ban doesn’t solve the problem. People currently have a choice. They can either care about animal welfare or they can have cheaper food. And large numbers of people choose to have cheaper food. Banning battery farming won’t make free range farming cheaper overnight. You and I might be able to
absorb the cost but what about everyone else? They aren’t choosing the nicer version now – there must be a reason.

The drive to ban activities is a dangerous one. It comes from intellectuals wanting to force their enlightened views on others. Spend the money on education if you must change behaviour. Just banning it doesn’t solve the problem – changing people’s minds so they feel it’s worth spending more is better. That way people still have a choice and supermarkets will stop stocking goods when people stop buying them.

5 thoughts on “Free Range

  1. Kate Jackson says:

    When i heard about the Chicken farming thing, i knew that this would be the real discussion. It is great to want for better welfare and ultimately better quality. However the cost of food is rising and a lot of people could not be able to afford the cost of a “free bird”.I try when i can afford to buy better quality and therefore better reared food. It is down to how much money goes in your pocket. In the group of friend and network i am in, if i had more money (i.e i received more of my income) i would go a get better food. They is however people who would not do that. They would still eat poor quality and buy other (shall i say illegal substances) stuff.Swings and round-abouts.Great piece though, thought provoking.

  2. Nick Ollivère says:

    Although no one seems to be asking themselves the question: ‘why should we be kind to animals?’.If we’re going to educate children on the issue, we should be able to answer that question comprehensively and convincingly.It’s perhaps not true, but it’s generally said that some cat and dog charities receive more money than those directed at helping humans. Have we got our priorities wrong?

  3. Alex Andronov says:

    Welcome Kate!I agree with you that some people won’t ever buy Free Range. I know somebody still seeks out blocks of margarine (not tubs, blocks like you get of butter), but it’s more and more difficult for them to buy because nobody else wants it.Eventually the market will ignore people like her and she won’t get her product any more at any price.This is what will probably happen to battery farming over time. The market will serve the needs of the many.

  4. Alex Andronov says:

    Nick:”Why should we be kind to animals”Generally if you ask a child (rather than teaching them) they will know that you are supposed to be kind to animals but that eating them isn’t mutually exclusive of this. They won’t know that some chicken doesn’t fit this pattern.In many cases the argument is pointless. Free Range chicken tastes nicer than non-free range. So I would prefer to eat free range.But for the answer as to why we should be kind to animals check back soon, I will reply. Actually tomorrow’s post touches very vaguely on the issue, but I’ll address the issue head on next week.

  5. K.W.Wan says:

    I agree about the basic principles: I value personal liberty above any kind of forced law. People need to be educated, then they can decide. I suppose one of the striking things about Hugh’s Chicken Run was the reaction to the cheap chicken half of the shed. Everyone knows that chickens are cooped up, but until you see it (or see people’s reaction) it is sometimes hard to really register.I never bought the cheap cheap value chicken, but after watching that, I am in real danger of being converted into free range only. Of course I’m also aware that I’m in a position where I can choose what I eat with my wallet. (Or can calculate that switching to free range would involve buying two less pints a week.)As for the show, I thought it was flabby and could have been edited. It felt bloated, over 3 shows (what actually happened in the first show?). Though the idiot kebab shop owner in the last show was hilarious.

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