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14 May 2019, 15:07 | Updated: 14 May 2019, 15:10
An animal welfare charity claims tens of thousands of chickens are suffering extreme conditions on 3 farms in Northants before being sold to high street names including Nando's, Lidl and Asda.
Animal Equality claim the chickens - supposedly at Red Tractor Label standard farms, live amongst dead birds and suffer forced growth.
The harrowing footage, filmed (Jan-March) on three Red Tractor-certified chicken farms in Northamptonshire, shows:
After viewing the footage from Evenley, Pimlico and Helmdon farms - all rearing chickens for Faccenda, one of the UK's largest chicken companies which supplies major outlets including Nando's, Lidl and Asda - Animal Equality's UK Director, Dr Toni Vernelli, said:
"Sensationalist headlines about American chlorinated chicken would have us believe that British birds live a life of luxury, but these harrowing scenes reveal the truth. Crammed inside crowded sheds and bred to grow so unnaturally large that their joints and hearts can't cope with the strain, chickens on British farms suffer every minute of their lives."
"Labels and certificates don't prevent animals from suffering in the meat industry, but consumers can. Delicious, plant-based options are now widely available in shops and restaurants across the UK. It's never been easier to leave chickens off your plate!"
Investigators made multiple visits to the farms between January and March 2019 after receiving a tip-off about poor conditions. On every visit they found chickens unable to stand and dead birds left to rot inside the overcrowded sheds. After discovering bin bags full of dead birds inside one shed at Evenley Farm, they installed a hidden camera to record how long the carcasses were left among the living. It filmed workers callously breaking birds' necks and leaving them to convulse amidst the flock; workers deliberately kicking and stepping on birds; and dying birds thrown onto a pile and left to suffer for hours.
Despite repeated calls to Faccenda yesterday (Monday 13th May), we had no response; Animal Equality told Heart they experienced the same when they tried to contact the firm.
RED TRACTOR LABEL REACTION
A statement for Red Label organisation say:
"Animal health & welfare is at the heart of Red Tractor standards. As soon as we were made aware of alleged breaches to our standards, we launched an immediate, independent investigation.
Red Tractor has conducted on-farm spot-checks and the RSPCA have made their own investigations. The Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) also inspected the farms and no major issues were found.
The footage did highlight some issues in terms of Red Tractor standards and we required all personnel involved with the three farms to undergo additional training including the prompt identification of sick birds, bird euthanasia and behaviour around catching. This training has now been completed and verified by a vet.
The three farms are now subject to a strict programme of unannounced inspections."
"Animal welfare is as important to us as it is to our customers which is why all of our chickens are barn reared in the UK to Red Tractor standards. We expect all our suppliers to operate to high standards and we are disappointed with the footage.
We will be working closely with the supplier to get to the bottom of these allegations, ensuring immediate actions are taken to bring all their sites up to standard".
"Our members take their responsibilities to animal welfare very seriously and work closely with trusted suppliers so that high welfare standards are upheld. They have strict processes in place and will thoroughly investigate any evidence of non-conformity to ensure that any problems are immediately addressed."
"I do however want to reiterate that we take animal welfare extremely seriously and are investigating with our suppliers."