British animal welfare specialists, 25 in all, have published an open letter condemning 'painful' intensive chicken farming conditions.

Public figures calling out Tesco include TV Presenter Chris Packham and the former UK Government deputy chief veterinary officer Dr Alick Simmons.

The letter follows recent undercover footage from Open Cages exposing severe cruelty.

The letter comes immediately after Tesco announced they will introduce 'affordable' higher welfare chicken.

Experts argue that this does not go far enough.

Professor Veterinarian Andrew Knight is a vet and director of the Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester. He said: “Tesco has a particular responsibility to safeguard the wellbeing of the chickens it farms and it is clearly failing to meet that responsibility.”

The experts condemn fast-growing 'FrankenChicken'.

These selectively bred birds can struggle to even stand under their own weight. The experts call out ‘extremely common’ issues such as skin burns from birds sitting in their own filth. They also describe the stressful effects of severe overcrowding. Tesco policy grants a chicken space equal to an A4 sheet of paper in their last weeks. These issues are rampant in the recent footage published by Open Cages.

The letter addressed to Tesco CEO Dave Lewis states: “A significant proportion of broilers reared in intensive conditions routinely suffer from poor leg health, painful lameness, cardiovascular disease and premature death.”

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The experts urge Tesco to sign the Better Chicken Commitment.

This is an ambitious set of new minimal standards for which companies would need to adopt higher welfare breeds across 100% of their supply chain. Maximum stocking densities would also be lowered significantly, amongst other reforms.

Giants like Unilever and Europe's largest caterer Sodexo have already signed. UK Supermarkets Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have also committed.

"Tesco’s claims of ‘high standards’ are crumbling," said Open Cages CEO Connor Jackson.

“The suffering in our footage is clear, and the experts agree: cheap chicken is riddled with cruelty. With this letter Tesco has an opportunity to charge ahead and address chicken welfare with the experts behind them. So let’s see if they take that opportunity. Let’s see if animal welfare is on their agenda.”

The letter signatories hope Tesco will sign the Better Chicken Commitment.

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