Lucy & Goliath | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

Lucy & Goliath

Lucy & Goliath

Interview with Lucy Cavanagh

When you’re 14, changing the world might seem like a far-off pipe dream. Not for Lucy Cavanagh, vegetarian and hen-rescuing teen from Sheffield. Her aim was to end the sale of eggs from caged hens in all UK supermarkets.

Lucy started with Tesco in February this year, gained 13,500 signatures for her petition in a week and ended with over 280,000. After a letter writing campaign, TV and radio interviews and a meeting at Tesco’s head offices, Lucy claimed victory in July when Tesco announced the end of caged eggs by 2025. But that wasn’t the end; she took on Asda, who also made the 2025 pledge, with Iceland, Aldi and Sodexo following suit in a domino effect.

Lucy has now launched a new, even more ambitious petition – to end all caged-hen farming in the UK. I travelled to Sheffield to interview this inspirational girl. Lucy is a picture of calm confidence when I arrive. Having already done seven media interviews, she’s a professional. I interviewed her in her lovely garden where she introduced me to her four rescued hens:

“When I got them, quite a few had no feathers at all. They were weak and pale and not well at all. It took quite a while for them to get back to health.”

Their thick, glossy feathers gleamed in the warm sunshine – happy, confident, beautiful individuals, what hens should be like. The contrast between them and hens from ‘enriched’ cages was stark, as Lucy explained:

“There is little space, no access to the outside world and no stimulation. I think the way they’re confined in cages is appalling”. (See Viva!’s Cracked exposé on page 11).

I asked Lucy if she felt supermarkets have a moral duty to set high standards for animal welfare? She was adamant:

“They can vary the price if they want but not the way the animals are treated, that must be completely solid. I don’t want to inflict cruelty on any animal”.

Lucy fell in love with hens when she met a flock on a livery yard and adopted one – Mrs Hen. An awareness of the horrific treatment of commercial laying hens followed.

I can see Lucy is the real deal by the way she holds her hens and talks about them, telling me how inconsolable she was when one got lost in the woods at night. She clearly adores them.

With no trace of arrogance, she seems inherently to know that she can succeed, which is probably one reason why she did!

Her advice to other young people is clear: “It’s important to hold on to your values and if you believe animals are being treated badlly then you have to do something about it – it’s important to act!”

Lucy is living proof that one person can make a difference. The petition started as her personal dream, her solitary voice but reached hundreds of thousands of others and the snowball effect resulted in her dream becoming reality.

So, will all shops eventually stop selling eggs from caged hens?
“It really looks like it now that so many have pledged to go cage free by 2025. It didn’t look possible even a year ago.
“Of course, hens will still continue to suffer until 2025 and even after that, they won’t be living a happy, natural life. Most farms will move to barn production methods which are often equally dank, depressing and inadequate.”

Unfortunately, ‘free–range’ hens often fare little better but what Lucy has started is a process of raising public awareness and who knows where it will end?

Lucy, who has now been nominated for the Young Animal Enthusiast of the Year award at the Animal Heros Awards Ceremony, ended with strong words of support for Viva!.

“If you’re interested in animal welfare, follow what organisations such as Viva! do, check out their work and campaigns and support them in any way you can.”