ANIMAL rights campaigners caught people's attention during a rush-hour protest outside a Bolton poultry firm.

About 20 demonstrators from the newly formed Bolton Chicken Save group waved placards outside Bolton Poultry Products in Moncrieffe Street near the junction with Thynne Street during the evening rush hour on Thursday.

The group was inspired by a similar network of animal rights groups in Canada and this was its first protest.

In a 30-minute period, scores of passing motorists beeped their horns in support of the protesters.

One of the organisers, Gareth Evans, of Bolton, described the event as a "peaceful vigil" aimed at "bearing witness to the last moments of the lives of chickens."

He added: "We chose to come here because this is one of the only poultry businesses in Bolton, and one of the biggest.

"It is not about how they are killed, it is about the fact that they have to be killed at all.

"We want to show people that there is a connection between what is on their plate and the fact that an animal has to suffer.

"In this day and age there is absolutely no need for us to put an animal through any suffering."

Another campaigner, Kate Hutchinson, aged 25, of Bolton, said: “I was cycling past this place recently and saw crates of chickens outside. I sat with them a while and was very emotional.

"We want to emphasise that we respect people's right to have jobs here, but we want to challenge people's dietary choices."

Ms Hutchinson added that she was delighted with the turnout at the group's first demonstration.

A Bolton Poultry Products spokesman said: "We respect people's right to protest peacefully.

"Our standards are high and we employ vets and adhere to all safety requirements.

"We are fulfilling a demand and meeting all legal requirements.

"If our business was to do as the protesters want and close, we would have to lay off staff."