Free-range hens struggling at egg farms supplying M&S, Tesco and Asda, animal rights activists say | EUROtoday

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Marks & Spencer has suspended a free-range egg farm as a provider after seeing footage there of a residing hen hanging the other way up, in addition to sick hens alongside residing ones.

It was one in all 4 free-range farms that had RSPCA endorsement the place animal welfare advocates filmed inside. Together, the 4 offered eggs to Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Asda, in addition to the Happy Egg Company.

The activists stated they noticed “appalling” circumstances with struggling and dying birds.

Activists claims to have seen ‘appalling’ circumstances (Animal Justice Project)

Each farm had sick, dying and useless hens alongside residing ones, in line with the activists – however they warned that the scenes had been “a distressing norm in the free-range egg industry”.

Animal rights charity Animal Justice Project (AJP), which shot footage on the farms between December and February, stated its investigation laid naked claims of excessive welfare as a facade. The RSPCA suspended one other of the 4 after seeing the footage.

The most surprising discovery, in line with AJP, was a hen hanging the other way up on Home Farm in Lincolnshire, which was an A-listed provider for M&S through egg firm Bumble Hole Foods.

“She was struggling to free herself from a hazardous slatted system, with other birds already dead and hanging off tiers,” an AJP spokesperson stated.

A hen was discovered caught by a wing and hanging the other way up (Animal Justice Project)

“The situation was exacerbated by insanitary conditions throughout the farm. In the packing room rat poison had been ‘haphazardly scattered’ and a dead mouse lay among the filth.”

Home Farm cancelled its RSPCA Assured membership in February, though filming had taken place two months earlier.

Bumble Hole Foods says it sources eggs from farms accredited for his or her hygiene requirements and rooster welfare.

The witness stated in addition they noticed distressed animals with splayed legs, birds with dangerous feather loss, decomposing our bodies and overcrowded nesting areas.

M&S suspended the farm when The Independent confirmed the chain the footage.

The different three farms nonetheless had RSPCA Assured endorsement when filming came about, however on seeing the footage, the charity suspended Ratford Farm in Wales, the place the activist noticed “run-down facilities and instances of neglect”.

‘Free-range’ birds fill racks at Glenrath Farm, Scotland (Animal Justice Project)

In sheds that housed greater than 14,000 birds, one hen was filmed with an apparently twisted neck, useless hens had been filmed on the ground, and one hen had extreme diarrhoea, it was claimed.

Conditions had been additionally “disturbing”, it’s claimed, at Glenrath Farms in Scotland, owned by an “egg dynasty” and one of many UK’s largest producers of free-range eggs that produces greater than 1,000,000 eggs each day for Tesco and Asda.

Animal Justice Project stated it noticed “sick hens in filthy conditions showing signs of severe distress” reminiscent of twisted beaks, swollen ft and panting.

“The stench of ammonia filled the air, and numerous deceased hens were scattered throughout the premises – in one area, seven lifeless birds lay together, their necks seemingly broken before they were discarded,” the spokesperson stated.

Many hens had misplaced feathers (Animal Justice Project )

“Central nesting areas were deliberately blocked off, depriving hens of essential spaces to rest and lay eggs, and ‘enrichment’ efforts, represented by plastic bucket lids and mesh scraps, remained untouched.

“During each visit in February, drone footage showed the birds were denied access to the outdoors for four consecutive days, with ‘pop holes’ sealed shut.”

Over half of the respondents in a YouGov ballot for Animal Justice Project stated they believed free-range hens had each day entry to outside.

In 2022, a director of Glenrath Farms gained an award from the Poultry Club of Scotland.

Hens weren’t seen being let outside for 4 days in a row, it was claimed (Animal Justice Project)

At a Tesco-supplying farm within the East Midlands, which offers eggs for The Happy Egg Co, a model synonymous with “ethical” egg manufacturing, Animal Justice Project stated it documented instances of extreme prolapses, wings that seemed damaged, and widespread feather loss.

Dying and decaying birds had been allegedly seen on shed flooring.

Sean Barrs, an Animal Justice Project campaigner, stated: “Today’s modern egg industry in Britain unveils a heartbreaking truth: sick, dying, and live hanging egg-laying hens, crammed by the thousands into huge, factory-style sheds designed for maximum production.

“Even RSPCA Assured certification fails to shield these birds from suffering, despite the organisation’s mission claiming to advocate for ‘every kind of animal’.”

One chook at Glenrath appeared to have a yeast an infection (Animal Justice Project)

An M&S spokesperson stated: “The footage shows unacceptable levels of welfare which fall well below the rigorous standards we set for all our suppliers. We have immediately suspended the farm [Home Farm in Lincolnshire] from our supply chain while we urgently investigate with RSPCA Assured.”

A Glenrath spokesperson stated chook welfare was a precedence, including: “We’re disappointed animal activists chose to break into our farm, causing a significant biosecurity and disease risk. It is a criminal offence to break into a secure property.

“It looks as though the activists were in the shed whilst the birds were resting, which would cause them to become upset and distressed. When birds are resting nest boxes are routinely closed.

“Whilst a misshapen beak is unfortunate and the industry makes great efforts to ensure accurate beak trimming, occasionally some birds do still have misaligned beaks.” There was no indication birds had been struggling to feed or drink, they stated.

‘Free-range’ hens in Lincolnshire (Animal Justice Project)

Questioning whether or not birds turned lame or died due to intruders, they stated a vet who inspected the hens detected no welfare points.

An RSPCA Assured spokesperson stated: “This footage is very distressing to watch and we launched an investigation as soon as we were made aware of it.

“As part of that investigation, RSPCA Assured assessors have made unannounced inspections of the three farms that are members of the RSPCA Assured scheme. We’ve also analysed the footage to identify any breaches of the RSPCA welfare standards.

“We can confirm that we have suspended one of the farms, pending further investigation. This means they cannot market or sell any products under the RSPCA Assured label. Our investigation into the other two farms is ongoing and we are unable to comment further at this time.

“A fourth farm shown in the footage cancelled its membership in February, so we are unable to investigate.

“Sadly, from time to time things can go wrong on farms, but one case of poor welfare is still one too many, which is why we have taken these allegations very seriously.”

Asda aligned itself with the response of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents all supermarkets. Andrew Opie, of the BRC, stated members labored intently with trusted suppliers to make sure excessive welfare requirements had been upheld. “They have strict processes in place and will thoroughly investigate evidence of welfare breaches,” he stated.

The Independent requested Tesco to remark however didn’t obtain a reply.

A spokesperson for Noble Foods, which owns The Happy Egg Company, stated: “At The Happy Egg Co, the care and wellbeing of all our hens is a top priority and our agricultural team runs a robust schedule of regular farm visits, which includes spot checks from third parties to ensure they meet our stringent welfare standards.

“As soon as we were shown this footage featuring one of our farms, we launched an immediate review. Our team assessed the farm, and the RSPCA carried out an independent and unannounced assessment on Monday 29 April, where the farm was found to be fully compliant with industry regulations and best practices. The RSPCA had previously visited the farm only two weeks prior and has found no cause for concern at either visit.”

The British Free Range Egg Producer Association was requested to touch upon behalf of Ratford Farm, in addition to Home Farm, which additionally didn’t reply to requests to remark. Nor did Bumble Hole Foods reply to requests to remark.