Supermarkets in Eastbourne still selling eggs from suspended farm
Major supermarkets in Eastbourne were still selling eggs today (Wednesday) from a farm whose animal welfare accreditation has been suspended by the RSPCA, writes Logan MacLeod and Sophia Andersson-Gylden.
The suspension of Hoads Farm Egg’s animal welfare accreditation came after Direct Action Everywhere, an activist group from Brighton, recorded undercover footage of the conditions at the farm at Broad Oak, near Rye, at 6am on Monday (January 27).
According to the group, 150 activists filed into the farm ‘under the cover of darkness’ and passed their footage to the RSPCA, which said it was “shocked” and “appalled” by what they had seen.
Hoads Farm was supplying eggs to Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Morrisons and Tesco. The eggs were still on sale this morning (January 29) at Sainsbury’s in Hampden Park, the Co-op in Cornfield Road and Tesco in Lottbridge Drove.
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said, “The welfare of our animals is extremely important and we can reassure customers Hoads Farm Free Range Eggs have been withdrawn from sale while we investigate these allegations.”
A Tesco spokeswoman said, “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.”
A Co-op spokeswoman said, “Animal welfare is an absolute priority for the Co-op and we have withdrawn Hoads Farm branded eggs from sale. We are awaiting the results of an investigation from the supplier and the RSPCA.”
A spokesman for RSPCA Assured, the ethical food label dedicated to farm animal welfare, said earlier this week, “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 whilst we urgently investigate.
“We have very serious concerns about some of the hens and the conditions shown. 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.”
A spokesman for Hoads Farm denied any allegations made against it and said, “Hoads Farm operates above and beyond the already high standards laid down by the British egg industry.
“Following this incident, we asked the RSPCA to carry out an inspection of our site, which they completed yesterday. As we expected, they reported the hens being in good health and with good feather cover.
“Additionally, we also had a fully qualified poultry vet visit the site yesterday, and, apart from the consequences of the protestors’ actions, again he raised no concerns.
“DEFRA also visited the site, accompanied with an independent vet, who reported the following: ‘No non-compliance for animal welfare noted at time of inspection, all compliant for welfare or free range birds. Compliant production unit and egg collection area. No issues identified’.
“The welfare of our birds is of paramount importance to us, and we strongly refute the allegations made by these so-called animal rights activists. We also question the integrity of the images used. And, being the fourth farm in the area to be targeted by animal rights activists, we believe Monday’s incident is part of a targeted campaign against egg production facilities.”
“The actions of these 100 or more individuals which included criminal damage and theft, has not only distressed the very birds they claim to care about, but has compromised the bio security measures in place to keep the hens safe from infection.”
The RSPCA said today (Wednesday) that an officer had visited the farm and ‘a new flock of birds seen today was in good health, with good feather cover’ – but that officers are still investigating the video.