Waitrose has been named as Britain’s most farm animal friendly supermarket for the second time in succession in Compassion in World Farming’s ‘Compassionate Supermarket of the Year’ Awards.

The company achieved the highest score – 49.3 out of a possible 60 – in an exhaustive CIWF survey to monitor how well animals are reared, transported and slaughtered for the UK’s leading supermarkets.

Waitrose was particularly praised by CIWF for its performance on the welfare of pigs, ducks, laying hens and farmed fish.

But the two-yearly contest – whose results were announced at a celebrity dinner and awards ceremony at London’s Waldorf Hilton Hotel on 26 November – was close-run, with just five points separating the top three supermarket chains.

Marks & Spencer narrowly came second to Waitrose, and won the award for “Investment and Innovation in Farm Animal Welfare Research 2005-2006” for their development of the Oakham chicken. Third placed supermarket was the Co-op, which was awarded the title of “Most Improved Supermarket 2005-2006.” Other supermarkets taking part were ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield and Tesco.

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The results of the competition show that Britain’s supermarkets are continuing to make good progress in many aspects of farm animal welfare.

However, the survey on which the competition is based also reveals that supermarkets still permit some alarming farming practices that leave farmed animals open to suffering.

The survey – which took several months to complete – reveals that most supermarkets allow chickens reared intensively for meat to be stocked at densities that exceed government guidelines – at 17 birds per square metre

Sainsbury’s and Somerfield are still selling some own label pig meat which is imported from stall systems that are banned on cruelty grounds in the UK

Despite a ban on routine tail-docking of piglets, 80% or more of the pig meat sold by all the supermarkets surveyed still comes from pigs that have been tail-docked

The majority of turkeys and ducks farmed for the major UK supermarkets are intensively reared.

“These failures not only help to perpetuate farm animal suffering, they also taint what is an otherwise encouraging record by the UK supermarkets,” said Philip Lymbery, CIWF’s chief executive. “In particular, they deserve praise for moving away from battery eggs and for encouraging the humane slaughter of fish.”

“But the welfare issues highlighted above must be addressed urgently by all our supermarkets. It’s unacceptable that pig meat produced in a system that is illegal under British law is being sold here,” he said. “It’s even more unacceptable that supermarkets are permitting farmers to break government guidelines on stocking densities for broilers and to ignore EU legislation on tail docking and the provision of straw for pigs. We know that the supermarkets have the power to change this and that consumers will want them to.”