Zoo sorry over 'flame-grilled chicken' pix

Zoo: RSPCA complained

Zoo editor Paul Merrill has apologised to the RSPCA after publishing photographs of burnt chickens.

The animal welfare charity had written to Zoo’s publisher, Emap, to complain about the article, entitled “Hot Wings”, which appeared in the 21 February issue.

It showed chickens being burnt alive as part of a bird flu cull. It included a photograph, of one chicken that was alight and trying to run away from the flames, captioned: “A crowd gathered to see if he could top 100 mph with his rocket pack.” Another picture was captioned: “Who ordered the flame grilled?” The RSPCA claimed the article trivialised animal suffering and warned it could lead to some readers committing acts of cruelty.

Merrill told Press Gazette: “We did run a piece on the burning of chickens in China to draw attention to the appalling cruelty involved. We take the subject of animal welfare very seriously.

If our captions caused offence to anyone, then we’re sorry.

“We’ve had letters thanking us for higlighting the plight of the birds, a subject hardly covered by any UK media.”

In its letter to Paul Keenan, chief executive of Emap Consumer Media, the RSPCA said the captions were in “extremely poor taste” and caused gratuitous offence. It added: “There are many subjects which can be readily exploited for their humour, but animal suffering is not among them.”

Paul Littlefair, senior programme manager for RSPCA International, said: “I think most people would be quite offended by a full-page, full colour picture of a chicken being burnt alive. A lot of young people don’t like to see animals suffering and I think this was misjudged.”

Emap also received a complaint from Peter Cotterell at The Meetings Forum. He claimed the piece could only lead normal people to the conclusion that there was “something very unnatural and sick in the mentality at Emap”.

By Ruth Addicott

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