Fearnley-Whittingstall recently raised enough money to buy shares in the UK supermarket giant, Tesco. He bought the shares in order to put forward a resolution at the company's annual general meeting that it reconsider farming practices of the chickens purchased for its stores.
Fearnley-Whittingstall had called on shareholders to vote through a resolution to improve welfare standards for chickens, alleging that the company breaches the "Five Freedoms" concept proposed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council.
These include: Freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress.
His resolution, which needed a 75% majority to pass, was soundly defeated when it received under 10% of the vote in favour, according to the guardian.co.uk.
"If it didn't technically succeed, it certainly succeeded in putting Tesco on their mettle," he said. "I said before the meeting that if I got 10% then that would be something that Tesco couldn't ignore," said Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Tesco's chairman, David Reid, described the company as a leader in poultry welfare and said it would be willing to take part in broader government-led discussions, something welcomed by Fearnley-Whittingstall. "There clearly is a debate and issues, and the best way of working that through is as an industry," Reid said.
As the third biggest retailer in the world, accounting for one in every seven pounds spent on the high street in Britain, Tesco has become a magnet for criticism.