PROTESTERS dressed as chickens have returned to a Hereford supermarket to accuse the chain of being "complicit in an act of ecocide".

Environmental groups returned today to Tesco, in Hereford's Bewell Street today (March 11) for the third time in recent months, alleging that the chain is complicit in the killing of the River Wye ecosystem.

Dressed in white hazmat suits, a group of ‘environmental investigators’ tasked with tracking down the culprits responsible for death of the river marked off an area near the Tesco entrance with crime scene tape, while others dressed as chickens deposited ‘hazardous material’ in the form of artificial chicken poo.

Hereford Times:

Organised by Marches Climate Action, a division of Extinction Rebellion Marches, today’s protest followed previous ‘New Year’s Resolution’ and ‘Valentine’s’ events when the group say they collected 250 signed messages from concerned shoppers calling on the supermarket giant to stand by its own environmental policies and cease purchasing poultry from local processor Avara.

“The impending death of the Wye is not some terrible accident," said an MCA spokesperson, “but the predictable result of reckless profiteering: partly by multinational Cargill which created Avara as its subsidiary and imports Brazilian soya to feed their millions of chickens, and partly by Tesco whose poultry-purchasing contract drives this murderous supply-chain.”

Poultry manure is responsible for much of the phosphate pollution which has been a principal cause of the dramatic deterioration in the health of the Wye, now said to be near the point of ecological death.


The group said letters have previously been sent to Avara’s chief executive calling on the company to cease using Brazilian soya and to decrease poultry numbers, but with no response.

A further campaign dimension was added recently, when a US court found Cargill and others guilty of causing damage to the River Illinois by phosphate pollution from its intensive poultry operations there prior to 2005.

The campaigners say this "clearly indicates that both Cargill-Avara and Tesco had reason to know long ago what the effects would be of their intensified poultry operations in the Wye Catchment."

“Tesco is effectively a crime-scene," a group spokesperson said.

“As Hereford Tesco simply carry out orders from head office, we’ll be looking for an opportunity to take these messages to Tesco senior management, possibly at their AGM, demanding they take their own environmental promises seriously and cancel their contract with Avara.”

Tesco’s Willow brand chickens are purchased from Avara and campaigners say these are sold at a low price which does not reflect the true costs of what they deem “a toxic chain of destruction trashing local ecosystems to profit US billionaires.”

A Tesco spokesperson previously told the Hereford Times: “Protecting and maintaining water quality and biodiversity in our supply chains is an important priority within our supplier partnerships, and we’re committed to playing our part in ensuring the protection of the River Wye, alongside other actors across the food industry.

Want to stay up to date with all the latest news for your local area? It's easy, just sign up for our free weekly email newsletter here and all the important stories that matter to you will be delivered straight to your inbox.

“We continue to engage with suppliers and stakeholders across all agricultural sectors in the region as part of the Wye Agri-Food Partnership and have encouraged all of our suppliers to sign up to the Water Roadmap as part of the Courtauld Commitment 2030, which looks to reduce water pollution in key sourcing regions, including the Wye & Usk catchment.

“In partnership with WWF, we have funded some of the work of the Wye & Usk Foundation to tackle water pollution in the area. They work directly with a number of our suppliers on implementing nature-based solutions, including tree planting, as well as supporting farmers to test soils and implement on-farm best practice that all help reduce pollution in the River Wye.”

Avara, which is Hereford's biggest employer, has pledged action on the Wye.

“We want to reduce the impact that our business creates,” the company’s agricultural director John Reed said on BBC Hereford & Worcester on February 7.

“Supply chains are being monitored more and more closely,” he said. “We want to reduce our carbon footprint we want to reduce any suggestion of pollution or emissions where we can.”

The company has recently published a “roadmap” outlining the steps it has taken and plans to take to reduce the problem of chicken manure, which is used as fertiliser on nearby fields but is washed into watercourses, harming the wildlife they support.

It has pledged that by 2025, its supply chain will have ceased contributing to excess phosphate in the river Wye catchment.