Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

"Freedom Foods turkeys" covered in blood

Undercover investigators expose cruel suffering of thousands of birds this Christmas

Release date: 
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

THOUSANDS of turkeys destined for dinner tables across the UK have been discovered in "appalling" conditions during a recent undercover investigation. Many birds filmed by vegetarian campaigning group Viva! had leg deformities and injuries, with some birds demonstrating difficulty walking. Others had facial injuries including bloody, wounded snoods. The Midlands farm, owned by Attwells and Seafield Pedigrees claims to be RSPCA Freedom Foods Accredited*. Findings have prompted tough criticism of the scheme, from Viva! as it supposedly represents high animal welfare standards. In a conversation with the company, a member of Seafield Pedigrees staff told Viva! that it supplies Freedom Foods with turkeys. Viva! believe they have evidence which suggests the company has contravened Defra welfare regulations on a number of levels, as well as breaking Freedom Foods codes. The Freedom Foods ethos is cited as a "dedication to improving farm animal welfare" boasting 'Five Freedoms' standards; freedom from: discomfort, pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behaviour, freedom from fear and distress, hunger and thirst. Yet Viva! found turkeys so tightly packed in sheds they could not move or spread their wings - many were trampled as birds surged into one another. One bird was found with a severe facial deformity - abscesses on both sides of the lower beak, with one side having burst. Footage shows the turkey covered in blood, mixing with other birds, posing risk of contamination. One dead turkey was found, surrounded by other birds, who were also at risk of disease. Feed lines were broken and sharp, frayed metal wire was found on the floor, leaving turkeys open to injury. Among the violations of Freedom Foods regulations as set out by the RSPCA perceived by the investigators, included the absence of perches and hay for the birds, meaning that all they had to perch on was their feeding lines. Viva! founder & director, Juliet Gellatley, says: "The conditions found on the Seafield Pedigrees farm are typical of intensive turkey farms up and down the country. Birds live in fear and distress, they cannot express their natural behaviour and live in cramped, filthy conditions which make them susceptible to disease. One of the most shocking aspects of this case is the lack of regard for the health of the birds - one of which was bleeding when our investigators filmed him and had clearly been suffering for some time. In addition, scant regard had been paid to the security of the turkeys since they were surrounded by safety hazards. "This goes to show that consumers should not be conned into thinking that they are having a compassionate Christmas by buying supposedly higher-welfare turkeys - no matter what the accreditation or supposed standards, the birds will always suffer in intensive farming and will endure violent deaths. Evidence from the investigation, within the last fortnight has been submitted to Worcestershire Trading Standards and Worcester Animal Health Office. "We would urge anyone concerned about animal welfare to make the real ethical choice this Christmas - and go vegetarian or vegan. It is the only way to ensure that animal welfare is being put first in your name," added Ms Begolo. Viva! have a variety of meat-free Christmas recipes available for free on their website www.viva.org.uk/christmas. Their Peace to All campaign is taking to the streets of the UK where thousands of people will sign a pledge not to eat turkey this Christmas. For more information, contact Viva! by calling 0117 944 1000 or email justin@viva.org.uk ENDS For more information about this media release, please contact press officer Helen Rossiter by emailing press@viva.org.uk or Justin Kerswell by emailing justin@viva.org.uk or calling 0117 944 1000. Notes to Editors It should be noted that strict biosecurity measures were adhered to when Viva! investigators entered the turkey shed and that this was done legally. A GPS system was used to determine the exact location of the site. Viva!'s findings on this turkey farm have been reported to the RSPCA. * Evidence of Freedom Foods accreditation - In a conversation with a member of the farm's staff, the Viva! campaigns office was told that the turkeys produced by Seafield Pedigrees were entirely Freedom Foods accredited. - Seafield Pedigrees, formerly known as Attwells is cited online as being Freedom Foods accredited. For more information see: http://www.thebestof.co.uk/local/redditch/business-guide/feature/seafiel... "At Seafield Pedigrees Ltd poultry farmers nr Redditch we do not water inject or use preservatives or additives, and guarantee that all our free range and barn-reared turkeys are natural and wholesome, and carry RSPCA Freedom Food approval." http://www.thefreelibrary.com/A+record-breaking+Christmas-a0177816946 (See content below). A record-breaking Christmas. Title Annotation: New Products Date: Feb 1, 2008 Words: 109 Publication: Food Trade Review ISSN: 0015-6671 Midlands turkey farmers Seafield Pedigrees is celebrating its Christmas sell out of more than 100,000 Freedom Food Turkeys. The company grew the birds on three farms, all of which were approved by the RSPCA. Now the company is gearing up to grow Freedom Food Turkeys for year-round consumption and is to offer bronze and Worcester Red speciality breeds alongside the traditional whites. "The bronze and red breeds are slower growing, better tasting speciality breeds which will help top retailers and restaurateurs build a year round fallowing for turkey," said managing director, Michael Attwell. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Contact Seafield Pedigrees on tel 01527 66191 or visit www.attwellsltd.co.uk COPYRIGHT 2008 Food Trade Press Ltd. Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved. Ways Seafield Pedigrees contravenes Freedom Foods welfare standards The Viva! investigation into Seafield Pedigrees has led us to believe that the farm visited by our investigators on November 15th 2008 and certainly the Seafield Pedigree company is Freedom Foods accredited. Five Freedoms The Five Freedoms are outlined by Defra as the issues to be taken into account for farmed animal welfare. These have been adopted by the RSPCA as the grounding for their Freedom Foods scheme - Freedom Foods does not therefore refer exclusively to free range produce as many consumers have thought (although free range animals are taken into account in their code). The scheme claims to increase welfare standards in intensive units or factory farms. Below is a list of the Five Freedoms and the ways in which, on a very basic level, these were violated by Seafield Pedigrees. Hunger and thirst - plenty of food and water, but feed lines broken in several places making it difficult to feed. Freedom from Discomfort - The turkeys were so tightly packed that they could not move effectively. Many were trampled and we frequently witnessed shoving resulting in an uncontrollable surge. Freedom from pain, injury or disease - Several of the turkeys were seen to have leg deformities and injuries, causing difficulty in walking, resulting in limping. Others had facial injuries including bloody, injured snoods. One turkey had a severe facial deformity - abscesses on both sides of the lower beak, with one side having burst. The bird was covered with blood and was mixing with the other birds, causing risk of contamination. One dead bird was found, surrounded by other turkeys, who were at risk of disease. Feed lines broken and sharp, frayed metal wire lying around, potentially very damaging to turkeys. Freedom to express normal behaviour - there was not enough space to do so. Turkeys were too cramped to move. Sleeping patterns were disrupted because of constant low lighting which encourages the birds to feed. Freedom from fear and distress - birds were constantly on edge and highly strung. Freedom Foods Welfare Violations The RSPCA welfare standards for turkeys can be downloaded here: http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite'pagename=RSPCA/RSPCARedirect&p... Food FW1.7 - All foodstuffs must be safely and hygienically stored, transported and delivered to prevent infestation, contamination and wetting. Food lines were broken in two places, making them insecure and unsafe. Metal wire hanging, sharp and frayed, could cause injury. Other line propped up by wooden structure. (Footage 08:13; 11:36; 12:17). FW1.12 - the sitting of feeders must be such that: a) all birds have ready access to food without undue competition. b) Increased activity is encouraged in the birds. Neither was possible due to severe overcrowding. Normal movement was not permitted. Environment E2.4 - There must be nothing in the turkeys' environment that is likely to cause unnecessary injury or distress to the birds Food lines were broken in two places, making them insecure and unsafe. Metal wire hanging, sharp and frayed, could cause injury. Other line propped up by wooden structure. (Footage 08:13; 11:36; 12:17). One of the CDs hung up for 'enrichment' was broken with a sharp edge. A dead bird lying in the shed could potentially cause distress, as could the injuries we witnessed. Lighting E 4.1 - the lighting system in the turkey house must provide in each period of 24 hours: b) a minimum period of 8 hours continuous darkness up to the time of catching, which must take place during the natural dark period. The site was visited during the natural dark period between the hours of 22:00 and 00:00. Lighting was on the whole time, therefore not providing the "dark time' for the birds. This is probably an attempt to keep the birds alert and feeding at all times. It is recommended in the code that different lighting levels are maintained in the barns so that the turkeys can have a place to rest and relax - this was not found in the shed. Air quality and thermal environment E 6.2 - Provision must be made to ensure that the aerial contaminants do not reach a level at which they are noticeably unpleasant to the human observer E 6.3 0 - Inhalable dust, carbon dioxide and other aerial contaminants within turkey buildings must be kept at levels which comply with COSHH regulations. Specifically, averaged over an 8 hour period: a) Dust must not exceed 10mg/m3 b) Carbon monoxide must not exceed 50ppm The footage shows at 02:48 the state of the amount of dust particles circulating inside the shed - it looked as though it was snowing. Also, I experienced itching of the eyes and throat and felt the need to wear a face mask. Environmental enrichment E 7.1 - birds must be provided with the following provisions as a minimum: a) 1 round (i.e. large) or 2 rectangular (i.e. small) straw bales per 500 birds b) perching facilities (in addition to straw bales). c) lengths of rope [extra items are encouraged, such as CDs and empty water bottles and bits of veg] There were no straw bales or perches in the entire barn. The turkeys were only able to perch on their own food lines. There were no lengths of rope that they could manipulate. We saw some CDs tied by a cord and one empty water bottle (although this was tied too high for the birds to reach). Management Stock-keepers M 2.1 Prior to being given responsibility for the welfare of livestock, stock-keepers must be properly trained and competent to: a) recognise the early signs of disease b) know the appropriate action for treatment etc The turkeys we witnessed had several injuries and deformities, suggesting that either inadequate inspections have taken place, that incompetent staff are employed or that no action has been taken despite the condition of some of the birds. Inspection M 3.1 All turkeys must be inspected: a) at least 3 times daily b) using a procedure that will identify all birds that are sick, injured or behaving abnormally M 3.4 Any welfare problems seen during an investigation must be dealt with appropriately without delay. The many examples of welfare issues should have been dealt with " there were examples of long-standing injury as well as equipment breakages that had clearly been present for over 48 hours. Equipment M 4.1 Stock-keepers must inspect the equipment, including the automatic equipment, upon which turkeys depend at least once daily to check that there is no defect in it. M 4.2 Where a defect relating to M 4.1 is found it must be rectified immediately. However, if this is impracticable, such measures as are required to safeguard the turkeys from suffering unnecessary pain or distress as a result of the defect must be taken immediately and maintained until the defect is rectified. We saw and recorded on camera that several points in the feeding line were broken and damaged. One part even had metal wire hanging from it that could have caused severe damage to the birds. Insufficient efforts had been made to rectify the breakages or protect the turkeys from injury. Health H 1.6 Ailing and lame turkeys and any turkeys suffering from injury, such as open wounds or fractures, must be: a) segregated, but within sight and sound of other turkeys b) treated without delay c) or, if necessary, humanely killed immediately It states: The presence of any bird showing obvious signs of lameness will be taken as non-compliance with the RSPCA welfare standards. We saw and filmed birds that were lame and had leg deformities as well as birds with open wounds, one being very severe. Also available upon request For more information on the lease we have the following information: * A copy of the property deeds, showing that the farm is owned by the Attwell family. * The letter sent to Trading Standards and the Animal Health Authority, including a summary of the ways the farm contravenes Defra welfare standards.