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Chickens Brutally Killed at Farms Linked to Tesco and Ocado

Nick Webb writes as horrific animal rights violations are exposed at UK chicken farms.

Photo by Etienne Delorieux

An investigation by animal welfare activists into chicken farms supplying large supermarket chains has shown birds which do not reach minimum sizing requirements are being left to die of thirst, or having their necks brutally crushed. 

Videos taken at farms operated by Moy Park, one of the largest suppliers of chickens to Tesco and Ocado, have exposed the substandard conditions in which the birds are being raised. The chickens are bred to grow incredibly quickly, which causes many to have heart and lung problems, with some not able to develop leg muscles quickly enough to be able to walk. The birds are also shown to have burn marks on their backs and feet from the urine-covered floors in the barns where they live. 

Some of the birds who are unable to feed themselves are simply left to die, and those which the farm owners determine will not grow to size quickly enough are often euthanised by workers breaking the birds’ necks on the sides of buckets, or simply left to die of dehydration

Activists from animal rights group Animal Equality UK have recorded footage showing workers bragging about killing up to 500 chicks in one day because they knew they would never grow to size. The film shows animals still gasping for breath as they are tossed into buckets, still kicking, flapping and blinking, in the piles of corpses. Employees are, however, legally allowed to break the necks of up to 70 small chicks a day in order to save resources for the farm. 

At other farms where crates full of chicks are poured onto conveyer belts for sorting, birds are culled for having broken bones from the fall and being crushed under the weight of the other animals. Other farms showed that chicks sometimes become trapped inside apparatus for feeding and watering them. 

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High Enough Standards?

The farms run by Moy Park are held accountable by the Red Tractor farming standards, which detail the rules surrounding the welfare of livestock of all types, including poultry reared indoors.

In 2015, the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations, 1995 (WASK), was revoked by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, thus reducing the protection of livestock.However, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee has said, in a report published in September 2017, that “humane on-farm killing of small chicks is challenging… and cervical (neck) dislocation is increasingly seen in problematic terms.” 

The Need for Humanity 

The farmers who undertake this practice believe that dislocating and breaking the necks of the small chicks against buckets is an instant and painless death, however the report states that “there is significant evidence that manual cervical dislocation does not produce immediate loss of consciousness” – the chicks have to endure monumental suffering after being maimed before they eventually die. Legally, it is required that any animals that are sick or injured should be killed as soon as possible and that it should be done in a “rapid and effective” fashion. 

Executive Director of Animal Equality UK, Abigail Penny, said:

“It is of grave concern to me that, in Moy Park’s view, there were ‘no major breaches’ and the horrific practices filmed are permitted under Red Tractor standards. Clearly, this is what modern chicken farming looks like.”

Animal Equality UK is urging Tesco to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment which aims to eliminate brutal battery farming, in order to ensure higher welfare of the chicken they sell in the future.  

You may also like: New Zealand Leads in Animal Welfare Reform. Europe Follows

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