A free range chicken farm that supplies major supermarkets has had its licence suspended by the RSPCA after animal rights activists found rotting corpses, bleeding hens and filthy conditions at the business.
RSPCA investigators intervened at Hoads Farm near Hastings, East Sussex, after they were ‘shocked’ and ‘appalled’ by the apparent state of the farm’s chickens.
Supermarkets including Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons sell free range eggs from the farm, according to its website, at around £2 for a box of six.
Hoads Farm near Hastings, East Sussex, has been suspended by RSPCA investigators after rotting corpses, bleeding hens and filthy conditions at the farm were revealed (pictured)
Animal rights activists from Direct Action Everywhere filmed dead and partially decomposed birds lying on wire and the floor inside the farm
They also photographed an egg sorting machine left surrounded by cracked eggs and their contents. RSPCA Assured, which made the decision to suspend the farm, said it was ‘shocked’ and ‘appalled’
At least 150 activists from Brighton-based animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) stormed the farm on Monday morning, after publishing a video of conditions there, and demanded action from the authorities.
The activists sat inside chicken enclosures wearing protective gear and were later filmed carrying 50 birds out of the farm. The birds have now been pictured inside their homes on social media.
Footage of the grim conditions inside the farm was captured by DxE activists during a six-month investigation, which involved several visits.
A shocking seven-minute video published by the group shows partially decomposed corpses on a barn floor and lying on racks, dirty living spaces and hens with bleeding vents from which they lay eggs.
One heartbreaking scene shows a bird with a bloodied head and back standing in a corner, while another shows piles of eggs and chicken corpses inside a trailer.
At least 150 activists from Brighton-based animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) stormed the farm this morning. They are pictured here surrounded by chickens
Eggs produced by Hoads Farm are sold to Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons according to the farm’s website. They tend to be priced at around £2 for six
A dead and decomposing chicken photographed at the farm near Hastings, East Sussex
Photos of birds from the farm, published on Monday night, also show a hen with difficulty walking, another with a deformed face and a third with a curled foot.
RSPCA Assured, which oversees the charity’s certification of free range egg farms and made the decision to suspend the business from the scheme, said: ‘We are shocked and appalled by this footage and we 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’s accreditation while we urgently investigate.’
The RSPCA said it had ‘very serious concerns’ about Hoads Farm after viewing the footage.
‘On any farm, it’s important that any sick or injured animal receives attention quickly and that if any birds die their bodies are removed promptly.
‘We would encourage anyone with concerns about animal suffering to report it to us at the time so we can take swift action.’
DxE said they visited the farm several times over a six-month period to investigate it. Pictured above is a mostly decomposed body of a chicken inside one of the barns
Chicken corpses and piles of eggs inside a trailer were also photographed by activists
Hens missing feathers were also seen crammed on perches in the barn while they slept
Describing their visit to the farm, a DxE spokesman said: ‘One night we found a hen huddled in the corner, motionless and shaking.
‘She had blood all over her head. She was in clear pain and shock and hadn’t received any medical attention.’
DxE added that every time they visited they found ‘piles of dead birds in the walkways among living hens’ and hens with bleeding cloacae that they claim were ‘visibly infected’.
Police officers arrived 30 minutes after the activists protested at Hoads Farm was reported but, according to activists, did not intervene.
As well as a protest inside the farm, six other activists locked themselves into heavy chains on the farm’s driveway and were surrounded by more protesters.
During their protest activists took 50 free range layers out of the farm in Hastings
One bird taken from the farm had a facial deformity (left) while another struggled walking (right), posts of birds taken from the farm on social media revealed
A third bird taken from the farm and pictured online had a deformed foot
At 11am protesters entered a Sainsbury’s store in Hastings and held up images of the conditions at free range Hoads Farm.
Many members of the public appeared disgusted, they said, but a group of youths responded by throwing chicken nuggets at the protesters.
Hoads Farm claims on its website that it ensures ‘high welfare standards’ using the British Egg Industry Council ‘Lion’ Code.
‘We are constantly striving to ensure that we suppl the freshest and tastiest free range eggs to our customers,’ they said online.
‘This not only means adhering to highest industry standards, but also implementing our own unique standards of quality control.’
The remains of a chicken at the farm. This image was taken by activists. When asked, Hoad Farm said that it complied with high welfare standards
Protesters pictured sitting inside the free range hen house at Hoads Farm in Hastings
Hoads Farm told the BBC its standards met both EU law and those set by RSPCA Assured and BEIC Lion standard.
A spokesman said they had invited the RSPCA to visit and confirm ‘all necessary’ free range standards were being met. They added that a vet had been on site Monday afternoon and identified ‘no issues’.
‘(This footage) is in no way reflective of our farms and/or the welfare o our hens,’ he said. ‘All sites are routinely visited by independent bodies both announced and unannounced to ensure standards are maintained.’
MailOnline contacted Hoads Farm, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons for comment.