Hen welfare claims refuted

One of the photos taken during the Animal Aid investigation.
One of the photos taken during the Animal Aid investigation.

Animal welfare allegations levelled at a north Northumberland egg producer have been declared as ‘unfounded’ following official reports.

Last week, animal rights campaign group Animal Aid released covertly-shot photos and video from five farms around the country claiming to expose ‘shocking conditions’.

One of those featured was Sunny Hill Eggs, based in Detchant, near Belford, but since those allegations, two reports have been carried out, raising no serious concerns for the welfare of the chickens.

Speaking on behalf of the firm, Barney Kay, NFU regional director for the North East, was critical of the methods used by groups such as Animal Aid, but explained that since an allegation was made, it was followed up.

As Sunny Hill Eggs is accredited under the Freedom Foods scheme, the RSPCA carried out an inspection.

Their report stated: “I can see no concerns with this unit regarding the expose at this time. The unit is very well-managed and the birds are performing well.”

A second report was carried out by food assurance brand NSF-CMi in relation to the Lion Code scheme for eggs.

Their report concluded that there were two ‘minor’ non-conformances to rectify relating to the locking of dead bins and administrative paperwork.

Mr Kay said: “I’m absolutely 100 per cent satisfied that this is a very good business. This is the top end of the industry.

“Removing the emotion, although farmers really do care about their animals, but even if they didn’t, it doesn’t make business sense to have a bad welfare system with animals dying.”

The Animal Aid report had claimed: “The chickens were tightly packed into their housing units. With no perches provided, hens had to perch on food trays, machinery and water hoses. The floor of the sheds was a metal mesh that allowed droppings to fall through, and a huge pile of faecal matter could be seen underneath. This encouraged flies to breed. A large number were seen flying around the sheds and covering the floor of an adjoining office.”