WARNIG: DISTRESSING CONTENT
Harrowing footage shows the moment a worker at one of Britain's biggest turkey farms was secretly filmed killing two birds by crushing their necks with pliers.
Animal welfare group Viva! conducted a three-month investigation at Gravel Farm in Westbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire.
The group claims its footage – taken between September and November – shows a worker dislocating the necks of two turkeys with a “neck crushing device”.
After crushing their necks, both birds appear to flap around in distress for several minutes.
A spokesperson from Viva! told Yahoo News that the birds in the footage were sick or injured but were killed in an “unnecessarily cruel” way.
Gravel Farm provided turkey meat to Avara Foods, which supplies Sainsbury's, but the supermarket giant has now stopped using the farm, a spokesperson told Yahoo News.
Red Tractor – the UK’s largest food standards scheme – was “shocked” by the use of the devices, which it deems “extremely cruel”.
The investigation has prompted Red Tractor to drop the turkey farm from the list of suppliers allowed to display their logo.
A spokesperson told Yahoo News: “The farms’ membership from our scheme has been terminated.
“High animal welfare standards are a top priority, and we take any breaches to these very seriously. We have reported Gravel Farm to the Animal and Plant Health Agency to investigate whether any legal action should be taken.”
Dr Alice Brough, a veterinary consultant who watched the video, said: “What we see in this footage is incredibly disturbing and shows a categorical disregard for animal welfare.”
Lex Rigby, Viva! campaigns manager, said: "We are absolutely thrilled by Red Tractor's decision to drop Gravel Farm.
"Our team witnessed appalling conditions, documenting the systematic abuse of farmed turkeys, whose shorts lives are filled with nothing but misery and pain.
"While some birds were ruthlessly killed with barbaric neck crushing devices others were left to die slow, agonising deaths from their injuries – all for the sake of Christmas dinner.
An RSPCA spokeswoman told Yahoo news: “The use of ‘killing pliers’ is not something we agree with as we believe they are ineffective and inhumane. However, mechanical devices are legally permitted for killing birds weighing less than 5kg.
“We understand Trading Standards and Animal Health were also contacted about these concerns and as the appropriate investigating body, we hope they will look into this as a matter of urgency.”
Other harrowing parts of the footage show turkeys with open, bloodied wounds packed into filthy pens on concrete covered in faeces.
Viva! claims dying birds at the farm were found with untreated bloody wounds, causes by other distressed birds pecking out their feathers.
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Dr Brough said: “We see extensive evidence of disease, pain and suffering on this unit. Feather pecking and cannibalism is widespread, and in some cases severe with raw open wounds, extreme swelling and bruising.
“This is despite the fact that the birds have been subjected to beak trimming mutilations in an attempt to curb this behaviour – a behaviour that stems from environmental conditions failing to meet the basic needs of the animal, indicative of poor welfare.”
A spokesman for Avara Foods said: "We have high standards for bird welfare, and on initial review of the footage, we believe there are aspects that fall short and are unacceptable.
"We will continue to conduct a thorough investigation into all practices on this farm and take appropriate action as necessary."
Sainsbury's and Gravel Farm have been contacted for comment.
Elisa Allen, director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), told Yahoo News the footage was “truly awful”.
“Investigation after investigation of British farms has revealed the same thing: miserable, dying animals who are treated like inanimate objects, not living, feeling beings deserving of compassion,” she said.
“Peta urges anyone whose heart breaks and stomach turns at the sight of this footage to go cold turkey this Christmas – and opt for a stuffed-seitan roast, a hearty nut roast, or one of the many other delicious, healthy vegan options readily available that don't cost an animal his or her life.”