Exposed: Suffering of chickens reared by Yorkshire company planning new factory farm

Posted on the 12th November 2015

Animal Aid has uncovered distressing scenes of animal suffering during an undercover investigation at a factory farm run by a Yorkshire company that is planning to build a new chicken farm.

The investigation found:

  • A pile of dead chickens outside the farm, left exposed to the open air
  • Cramped conditions inside the shed, with very little space for the birds to move around in
  • Birds with missing feathers and raw, sore-looking skin
  • Birds with hock burns (caused by high levels of ammonia in the bedding)
  • Birds collapsing under their excessive body weight

The main investigation was carried out at Bowland Farm, which is operated by Yorkshire poultry producers H Barker and Son Ltd. Outside King Rudding Farm, which is also operated by H Barker and Son, Animal Aid found another pile of dead birds, again uncovered and exposed to the air.

Barker and Son is currently applying to build a new intensive chicken farm in Rufforth, which could rear more than a million chickens per year in these same cramped and filthy conditions. The new farm could contain up to 288,000 chickens at any one time, but it would employ only two and a half full time members of staff, making it impossible to ensure the welfare of individual birds.

The planning application for the new farm acknowledges that large numbers of birds would die before they could be slaughtered, predicting that two loads of dead chickens would need to be disposed of every cycle. Company records photographed at the entrance to the shed investigated at Bowland Farm indicated that 1,590 birds had died during the 31 days that they had been kept there.

The piles of dead birds, left uncovered outside both these farms, pose a risk to public health. But even when they do adhere to regulations, Animal Aid argues that intensive poultry farms still represent a serious health and safety hazard, since the crowded, dirty conditions form an ideal breeding ground for contagious diseases. Yorkshire is no stranger to these problems, and it is less than a year since there was an outbreak of avian flu on a duck farm in the east of the county.

The conditions on broiler farms also promote the spread of infections such as campylobacter, which causes a large number of food poisoning cases each year. This can be easily transmitted between birds via a shared water source or through infected faeces. Diseases such as avian flu, campylobacter and salmonella can be transmitted to human workers, or transferred on their clothing, and carried out into the wider community, putting lives at risk.

The planning application includes very little detail about how the vast quantities of dirty litter and water created by the farm would be dealt with. The plans to spread waste and dirty water on local farmland could put the local environment at risk, since runoff could result in the manure entering waterways, spreading dangerous pathogens and causing problems such as algal blooms that may endanger local wildlife.

Says Animal Aid campaign manager, Isobel Hutchinson:

‘Our investigation shows that H Barker and Son should never be allowed to build a new chicken farm. Quite apart from the terrible scenes of animal suffering that we filmed, it would seem this company cannot be trusted to follow basic regulations for disposing safely of dead animals — a failure that poses a serious risk to public health.’

Editors’ notes

  • For more information, or to interview Animal Aid campaign manager Isobel Hutchinson, please phone 01732 364 546 ext 233.
  • Additional photographs from the investigation are available on request
  • View the planning application
  • View footage from the investigation:
Object to the company's plans for a new chicken farm

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