Noise VS Transparency, Promises VS Actions, A Story From Denmark

On the 5th of November 2021 the animal rights NGO “Anima” launched a challenge for the Danish poultry sector. With a desire to show the Danish public how bad conventional farming is,the NGO, through an advertising campaign, promised € 67.000 (DKK 500,000) to the poultry farmer who would be willing to show their barns to the public.

The Danish Agriculture & Food Council took up the challenge with gusto, and Solveig Nộrmark, who runs her poultry farm with her husband Jens Kristian in western Jutland, welcomed people into the chicken coop via video camera. Via their website, it is possible to see what happens in real-time in the stable. Two cameras sitting at different heights and angles give a good overview of the barn, so anyone can follow the lives of approximately 32,000 chickens via livestream 24 hours a day.

Live data is also shared via this system, such as temperature, number of chickens, water and food consumption, or age in days. From the comfort of their homes Danes can now check in to see that the animals’ ventilation, drinking, and feeding systems are demonstrating good health and welfare. And European Livestock Voice took the opportunity to interview Henrik Søndergaard Nielsen from the Danish Agriculture and Food Council about this interesting story.

“What this story is telling us is that in Denmark we want to make sure that people from urban areas understand where the poultry comes from when they buy it at the supermarket”, says Nielsen. “We want to make people in the cities aware of how life is in the countryside, and what happens with the food they put on the table. Anima and the general public don’t know what goes on on the farms. Unfortunately, we are working with many myths and rumours about how farm life works. That’s why we were willing to be very open, offering everybody an opportunity to watch livestock farming in reality. We allow everybody to see first-hand what is happening to broilers on the farm and their progression. You can see that they are doing fine, eating well, sleeping, and moving around. Hopefully after this we can openly address the rumours and myths that we read in articles, often written by people who had never been to a farm.”

So, the lesson is that farmers have nothing to hide! Now the Danish Agriculture & Food Council is looking forward to receiving the award from Anima, as they intend to donate it to the Danish charity organisation Julemaerkefonden, which helps socially disadvantaged children. But is Anima really willing to pay the money advertised? “Well, yesterday they told a Danish magazine that they are reconsidering the payment and will have an internal discussion about that” – Nielsen answered regretfully – “We don’t want that money for us. We wanted to donate it to children.”

This story from Denmark is a double whammy for the livestock sector. It shows that not only are farms operating in respect of animal health and welfare, but also that for some judgemental parties, there is often a considerable gap between preaching about ethics and concrete actions. After the noise made and the promise of the money, it would be ironic to see the animal rights NGO Anima refusing to give it to the children. If it does transpire that they don’t keep their word, says Nielsen, “poultry companies and industries will donate this money for the children anyway.” An essential ethical lesson learnt.