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Jamie Oliver Shows the Reality of Chicken Dinner

What came first? … Jamie Oliver will present Jamie's Fowl Dinners on Australian television this week.

Rachel Browne
July 20, 2008

CELEBRITY chef Jamie Oliver has outraged animal rights groups and poultry farmers with a television show in which he kills chicks in front of a studio audience.

In the opening sequence of Jamie's Fowl Dinners - which airs in Australia this week - Oliver asks guests to separate male chicks from female chicks. He puts the males in a container and suffocates them. Later he electrocutes a chicken and drains the blood from its neck.

Studio audience members were reduced to tears during the program and the British RSPCA condemned the slaughtering of the animals.

But Oliver was unrepentant, saying it was necessary to kill the birds to raise awareness about the factory farming of chickens.

"I hated it but, let's be honest, this is a job that needs to be done and I'm prepared to do it if it helps to make a difference," he wrote on the program's website. "I don't think it's sensational to show people the reality of how chickens live and die at the moment. It may be upsetting for some people but that's how things are. And if seeing some of the practices helps to change the shopping habits of just 5 per cent of people watching, then it will be worth it.

"All of those birds would have been killed anyway, as thousands are every day up and down the country."

Australian Chicken Meat Federation executive director Andreas Dubs questioned Oliver's motives, saying the show seemed to be more of a stunt than an educational piece: "It was a bit dramatic because he was killing birds on the stage and in my view that was just designed to shock."

Mr Dubs said conventional farming practices in Australia were strictly monitored and humane.

"Oliver's argument is that people should consume welfare-friendly birds - that is, free-range or organic birds. We are OK with that," he said.

"Our industry produces a range of different types of chicken, from conventionally farmed birds to organic birds. People can buy whatever they feel is appropriate for them. They can make their own choices."

Channel Ten, which has advertisers including Nando's, Ingham and KFC, will air the program at 9.30pm on Wednesday with an M rating and a warning for viewers.

The Australian RSPCA will view the program this weekend. A spokeswoman said while it did not endorse Oliver's actions in killing the chickens it did support his move against factory farming: "We're interested in seeing the program because we know it had a huge impact on demand for welfare-friendly product in the UK."

When the program aired in Britain at the beginning of the year sales of factory farmed chickens dropped by 10 million within weeks and sales of free-range eggs increased by a third.

Animal rights group Voiceless said it did not condone cruelty but factory farming practices were abhorrent.

"I think Jamie is bringing to the fore some of the conditions surrounding some of the ways that chickens are farmed," co-founder Brian Sherman said. "Most people aren't aware of the situation and many people don't want to know because it's too hard to confront. These animals live in barns where there are up to 20 of them per square metre. They have a life of about 20 to 40 days from egg to slaughter and the only time they see natural daylight is on the way to the slaughterhouse."

Animal Liberation's Lynda Stoner said the program had polarised members of the animal rights movement: "What [Oliver] has done is shocking and it's intended to be shocking. He obviously hopes to rattle people into thinking about what happens to animals before they eat them."

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