CONCERNS over animal welfare standards affecting duck supplied to Co-op stores were raised by Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester delegate Martin Alder, who told the meeting that a demo was taking place at one of his society's stores as he was speaking.
Mr Alder asked whether checks on suppliers' practices and conditions were being carried out and when the commitment to the RSPCA Freedom Food standard would be achieved in relation to ducks.
The animal rights group, Viva!, criticised Co-op stores and threatened a day of action against the Movement on May 21st – the day of the Group AGM – but protestors at Glasgow were conspicuous only by their absence.
However Group Deputy Chairman Terry Morton told the meeting Co-op managers had met with Viva! to discuss the organisation's concerns.
He told the meeting that – contrary to statements issued by Viva! – suppliers to the 130 Co-op stores across all societies who stock duck did maintain animal standards and, in any case, Co-op brand ducks are not drawn from the most intensively farmed sites.
Said Mr Morton: "Our supplier uses open-sided barns with natural light and ventilation rather than enclosed barns. Stocking density is already two-thirds that of the legal maximum and the birds are provided with water troughs from which they can drink and also preen in.
"There is independent veterinary inspection alongside farm inspections and handling procedures for ill birds that should all contribute towards reasonable welfare standards."
Mr Morton added that it was anticipated that all Co-op brand duck would be accredited as Freedom Food, according to RSPCA stipulations, within the next three or four months.
He said suppliers' moves towards lower intensity open-sided barns was something the Movement could take comfort from, but acknowledged that it would probably not be enough to satisfy Viva! activists, who oppose factory farming altogether.
Mr Morton said free-range ducks had also been considered, but with an estimated on-cost of 50 per cent to customers, this was a price consumers appeared unwilling to pay.