Scenes of horror at Devon turkey farm

Posted on the 11th December 2007

As shoppers prepare to fill their larders with seasonal fare, Animal Aid visited a randomly selected turkey farm: Torbay Turkeys in Devon. The scenes we witnessed and filmed were deeply disturbing.

A large barn, divided into six areas, held hundreds of birds, destined to be the centrepiece at many a festive Christmas meal. Many of the birds were covered in muck and feather-pecked, and suffering from deformed feet and legs. Some were so ill that they were unable to raise themselves from the filthy floor. On top of the feed bins inside the sheds lay long-dead birds.

Outside, and in apparent contravention of government biosecurity regulations, were three mounds, covered by tarpaulins, which were held in place by old tyres. The smell emanating from these heaps was stomach-churning and gave a clear indication of their macabre contents: dead birds, entrails, feathers and blood. Who knows from what illnesses these birds died or how much they had suffered?

Around 23 million turkeys are reared in Britain every year. Most are intensively farmed inside large, overcrowded and dirty sheds. Under these conditions, turkeys suffer from painful degenerative hip disorders. Foot and leg problems are also commonplace. Ammonia in the urine soaked litter, in which they are forced to stand and lie down, causes ulcerated feet and hock burns and can burn away their breast feathers. Aggression amongst the stressed birds can lead them to peck each other, causing injuries and death. To try to prevent the worst of the damage, the birds – including some at Torbay Turkeys – have the ends of their beaks sliced off.

Says Animal Aid Head of Campaigns, Kate Fowler-Reeves:

‘Visiting Torbay Turkeys was like stepping onto the set of a horror film. Filth, gore and entrails outside; unbearable suffering within. We chose this farm at random but the evidence suggests that such scenes are to be found at farms right across the country. I hope that all compassionate people will be revolted by intensive turkey farming, and renounce such cruelty by choosing a compassionate, animal-free centrepiece for their next Christmas meal.’

Watch the film from the investigation:

Photos taken during the investigation (contact Animal Aid for high resolution versions):

Notes to Editors:

  • Torbay Turkeys is based at Compton Holt, near Paignton, Devon. We filmed there on 3rd December. Evidence relating to an apparent breach of biosecurity rules (Animal By-Products Regulations 2005) is being sent to Devon County Council.
  • Photos available on request.
  • For additional information, contact Kate Fowler-Reeves or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.

Not that it means much in the scheme of things. But I worked yesterday plucking turkeys on an organic farm. There were 300 birds and I began plucking about 8 in the morning. These birds were healthy before they died. But by the time I finished I was very depressed and I was in tears. These poor birds, even though they were allowed to roam free, were terribly traumatised and you could see they had met their death with fear and panic. I will never eat meat again as long as I live and will never be involved in meat production again. I just wish I had done this years ago and I am going to set up a standing order to help you guys in your work. I have told all my family and friends and I hope they change too.

After our investigation into turkey farming was seen in the national press, we received this by email.

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