Workers have been caught throwing dead chickens at live birds, holding chickens upside down and swinging them into each other by a hidden camera at a farm that supplies major supermarkets.
The chickens – that live for 36 days before they are slaughtered – were also shown with splayed legs, chemical burns and convulsing on the faeces-covered floor at Moorah farm in Essex.
The RSPCA has called for an investigation, after saying it was ‘concerned’ about birds being hurled inside the barn containing 30,000 chickens, while an animal welfare expert said handling the birds upside down was ‘not common practice’.
It will put further pressure on businesses including Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Aldi, to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), which will tie them to improving chicken welfare by 2026.
Workers have been caught throwing dead chickens at live birds, holding chickens upside down and swinging them into each other by a hidden camera at Moorah farm in Essex
The RSPCA has called for Trading Standards and Animal Health to investigate the scenes. Pictured above is a worker holding several chickens by the leg and swinging them into other birds
The shocking footage, filmed by a camera hidden in the barn by animal rights group Open Cages, shows one worker shuffling chickens across the floor before breaking an unwell bird’s neck and throwing it into the centre of the room.
A second bird is then also thrown, causing other chickens to scatter.
In harrowing footage taken over two visits to the farm in October by animal rights group Open Cages, one bird is seen flapping helplessly as its body shivers, while others are seen lying in the corner of the barn, appearing to be dead.
Chicken corpses piled so high they filled a wheelie bin were also pictured outside the barn.
As many as 3,412 chickens died before slaughter at a different barn on the farm, revealing the horrifying conditions they are subjected to.
Chickens from this farm were sold by Tesco’s until June this year. Since then, they may still be exported to other UK supermarkets or sold in ready meals to the EU and Africa.
The horrifying footage, filmed by animal rights group Open Cages, also revealed the squalid conditions millions of chickens are condemned to each year. Above is a bird that was seen lifting its head before collapsing near the food trough
Dead chickens were also seen in the barn, right, along with chickens with splayed legs that could not walk properly
After viewing the footage animal welfare expert at the University of Winchester, Professor Andrew Knight, identified lameness, chemical burns and rapid breathing possibly caused by pain in the birds
The RSPCA called for Trading Standards and Animal Health to investigate the farm.
‘Throwing dead birds into the middle of the shed where other birds are present could scare the other birds or, worse still, cause injuries to those on the ground,’ they said in a statement.
‘Upsettingly in this footage there were a number of birds that were lame or had obvious gait abnormalities.’
Animal welfare expert at the University of Winchester, Professor Andrew Knight, said that carrying the birds by their legs was not ‘something you should do’.
He warned this could cause stress or injury to the birds as it strains their bodies.
The expert also identified lameness, chemical burns, caused by urine and faeces on the substrate, and rapid breathing, which could indicate pain in the birds.
After the footage was sent to them, the APHA is understood to be investigating the business.
DEFRA guidelines state that chickens should be handled in a way that avoids ‘unnecessary struggling which could bruise or otherwise injure the birds’. It also says that ‘panic’ should be minimalised.
They also say that birds should be carried either round the body or by the legs. However, when this is done, no more than three chickens should be held by both legs in each hand.
The chickens are believed to be Ross 308’s – which have been bred to gain as much as 95 grams a day. The rapid growth rate causes leg deformities, heart attacks, and sudden death as their bodies struggle to keep up
These chickens were pictured at the edge of the barn, which Open Cages visited twice in October, and appeared to be dead. Feather loss indicates chemical burns due to faeces on the floor
Another chicken was also pictured suffering with splayed legs and painful joints at the farm
Open Cages, which conducted the investigation which reveals the reality suffered by millions of chickens in the UK each year, said they had ‘never seen so many animals unable to walk’ in an investigation before..
‘This is how the vast majority of chicken is produced,’ said Open Cages CEO Connor Jackson.
‘Just before Christmas, Tesco customers are dazzled by buzz words like ‘high standards’ and idyllic labels.
‘The nauseating standards we have documented show anything but that. Shops like Tesco are misleading their loyal customers.
‘The good news is that we as consumers have a choice, and we can choose to avoid supporting such animal abuse this Christmas.’
Outside, a large wheelie bin was found piled high with chicken carcasses
Documents from a similar barn at Moorah farm, found by the animal rights activists, showed that as many as 3,412 chickens died before slaughter
As many as 30,000 birds were crammed into the barn (pictured)
The chickens – believed to be Ross 308’s – are a breed bred to gain as much as 95 grams a day and reach their maximum weight rapidly in order to maximise industry profits.
However, the rapid growth leaves their bodies unable to cope, meaning the chickens are at risk of heart attacks, chronic skeleton disorders and even sudden death.
Animal rights groups are calling on supermarkets to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) – which requires businesses to only buy birds that are slower growing, given more room to move around and have not been killed using an electric bath or live inversion by 2026.
Fast-food chain KFC, as well as Nestle and Marks & Spencers have all signed the pledge.
Tesco’s confirmed that they received chicken from this barn until June this year
The birds live for just 36 days before they are large enough to go to slaughter. This chicken has leg problems making movement difficult
This dead chicken was pictured inside the barn. Compassion in World Farming said that the extreme growth rates put pressure on the birds’ bodies which can cause them to suddenly die due to a heart attack
Compassion in World Farming said that as many as 90 per cent of meat chickens are condemned to conditions such as those shown in the video.
‘As a result of selective breeding for growth, especially of breast meat which consumers demand, by the time they’re just four weeks old today’s fast growing breeds weigh almost five times what they did in the 1950s,’ said Research manager Catherine Jadav, explaining why businesses should support the BCC.
‘This puts immense strain on their young hearts, lungs and legs, which struggle to support their unnaturally large and disproportionate bodies.
‘They suffer heart failure and lameness. Many chickens struggle to stand up, let alone walk. We see chickens trying to get up but repeatedly collapsing back onto the ground, legs splayed, panting.
‘This is all too common on intensive chicken farms.’
‘Compassion asking major food businesses across Europe and the US to sign up fully to the Better Chicken Commitment – switching to slower growing breeds that have a range of better health and welfare outcomes.’
After they were contacted Hook 2 Sisters, which runs the farm, said they were investigating how the birds are treated at the farm
Another chicken was pictured curled up on the floor after possibly dying inside the barn
And this bird appeared unable to move as it sat with one of its wings inside the food trough
To avoid buying chicken reared in these conditions, the charity recommended consumers should buy RSPCA Assured, free range or organic chicken.
After viewing the footage, Tesco said that it would not take any further chickens from this farm – having stopped using it as a supplier in December.
‘We have immediately stopped supply from this farm and launched an investigation. We are shocked and appalled by these distressing and unacceptable images.’
A Hook 2 Sisters spokesman, which runs the farm, said in a statment: ‘Animal welfare is a top priority at our farms and something we take extremely seriously.
‘We are currently investigating the footage showing the handling of birds at Moorah Farm, and have a firm zero tolerance policy if it transpires a welfare procedure has not been followed correctly.
‘All our farms operate to UK and EU legislation and are regularly independently audited and accredited.
‘Our own welfare measures exceed minimum standards and our policies require the birds to have access to natural light and environmental enrichment.’
Animal rights groups are calling on businesses such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Aldi to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment, which ties them to improving chicken welfare standards by 2026
Fast-food chain KFC, Waitrose and Nestle have all already signed up to the commitment