Supermarkets have halted sales of free-range eggs from Hoads Farm following allegations of poor welfare conditions for hens.
Hoads Farm in Hastings, East Sussex, has been suspended from its RSPCA accreditation following a protest by animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).
The farm which is owned by Potters Yorkshire Farmhouse Eggs, supplies eggs to Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s, and is approved by RSPCA Assured’s Freedom Foods scheme and the British Lion Quality scheme.
The RSPCA said the farm had been suspended while an investigation into “allegations of poor welfare issues” is conducted.
Yesterday, the DxE Brighton branch took 150 people for a sit-in protest in the shed facility holding 32,000 hens at the Hoads Farm.
DxE Brighton tweeted that activists found “piles of dead [chicken] bodies” at the back of the facility soon after entering the farm, “but within a couple of hours workers had removed the bodies so the police wouldn’t see them”.
It tweeted: “DxE has negotiated the lives of 50 hens from Hoads Farm, the hens are being moved to animal sanctuaries where they can live out the rest of their lives free from human exploitation.”
According to DxE Brighton’s twitter and video, hens were found to be “visibly infected, bleeding and swollen” and “many piles of dead birds were found in the walkways”.
RSPCA Assured told SM: “We are shocked and appalled by this video and understand why people are upset.
“Any allegations of poor welfare issues on RSPCA Assured certified farms are taken extremely seriously, which is why we have suspended the farm whilst we urgently investigate.”
The RSPCA provides farmers, abattoirs and distributors with the RSPCA Assured accreditation when they comply with higher farm animal welfare standards, including “more space, natural lighting, comfy bedding, environmental enrichment, objects for birds to peck at and shade and shelter”.
The video by DxE shows hens were kept in a shed with a ‘multi-tier’ system which is designed to provide the birds with different levels (tiers) with perches that allow the hens to roost, according to the RSPCA.
A spokesperson from Tesco told SM: “These are deeply disturbing and unacceptable images. We expect all brands sold at Tesco to uphold high animal welfare standards and will closely review the results of the investigations into this farm.”
Asda has temporarily suspended selling Hoads Farm eggs and launched an investigation of its own.
Sainsbury’s said it would be not accepting products from the site and it was investigating the allegations.
Hoads Farm has been contacted for comment.
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