The UK supermarket chain Lidl has suspended its contract with the egg supplier Bird Bros Ltd in Bedfordshire, after campaigners of the Animal Justice Project released undercover images they claim show neglect of chickens.

During a five-month investigation at Sunny Farm in Swinshead, the group said they uncovered evidence of hens being trapped, denied food and water, and distressing conditions in cages. The footage taken by Animal Rights Project’s investigators shows a worker roughly slamming birds into cages and hitting hens with shovels. They also claim that hens were given no water and were not checked for months, which led to the discovery of hundreds of dead animals.

The group said the farm has 15 sheds and was estimated to house over half a million hens in enriched cages inside the sheds with space for 52,000 birds each. Lidl said it had immediately launched an investigation and would not take any more supplies from the farm until it had been completed.

Tayana Simons, an Animal Justice Project campaigner, said to ITV: “The footage from Bird Bros exposes yet another example of how supermarkets’ welfare claims translate to nothing for farmed animals. The distressing scenes underscore the urgent need for immediate legislative action.”

The UK produces around 10.6 billion eggs annually, and around 12.5 billion are eaten every year. Caged birds produce around 28% of UK eggs. No matter which type of egg farm hens are kept, they all suffer a great deal, and this is why vegans don’t eat eggs (even from backyard hens). However, the general public often thinks that farms that keep hens in enriched cages treat better their animals than those kept in traditional individual battery cages. This new exposé shows that this is not necessarily the case, and the bad treatment happens across the board.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.