A Viva! investigation from 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.