A CAMPAIGN to get North Devon thinking free-range gained an egg-stra boost this week thanks to the help of Exmoor Zoo. The fledgling fight to encourage local people to shun cheap, factory farmed chickens and battery farmed eggs has a new mascot: the park

A CAMPAIGN to get North Devon thinking free-range gained an egg-stra boost this week thanks to the help of Exmoor Zoo.The fledgling fight to encourage local people to shun cheap, factory farmed chickens and battery farmed eggs has a new mascot: the park's very own chicken, "Pecks".The zoo is one of a growing number of organisations and individuals lending their support to the awareness initiative hatched by Yelland woman Joanne Bell, in the Gazette, earlier this month.The idea was inspired by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's bid to turn East Devon's Axminster into Britain's first free-range town."We are thrilled that Exmoor Zoo have offered Pecks, a very splendid and famous Blue Cochin, to be our mascot and head up our campaign," said Mrs Bell."We have been really encouraged by the enthusiasm of people who have contacted us after reading about the campaign in the newspaper."Clearly from the amount of phone calls we have received, there is a great deal of sympathy for this issue already in the community. This has obviously been energised by the recent excellent television programmes about Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver's 'Chicken Out' campaign."Exmoor Zoo education officer Lizanne Byrne said if shoppers chose to buy free range, barn reared or organic food, more would be produced."We're really lucky in Devon to have lots of locally produced food to choose from but farmers need local people to buy their food," she said."If we buy local, they will provide more of the food we want to buy."Mrs Bell hopes to be able to work with those in the industry and make contact with farmers, supermarkets and consumers to try to understand all the complex implications of free-range chickens and eggs. "We are still on a learning curve and really do want to speak with the farming communities to appreciate all the financial aspects of this issue." Mrs Bell said that the next step would be to set up an information stall in Barnstaple in time for Easter, for a two-way debate with consumers."We still need more volunteers to enable us to spread the word in as many different areas as possible," she added."Together, I am hopeful that we could make a difference."To get involved or help to support the campaign, telephone Joanne Bell on (01271) 860989.