Lidl suspends contract with Bedfordshire egg supplier over animal rights group's neglect claims

Supermarket chain Lidl has suspended its contract with a major egg supplier after campaigners released undercover pictures which they say show neglect of chickens.

Lidl cancelled the agreement with Bird Bros Ltd in Bedfordshire after an investigation by campaigners from the Animal Justice Project.

During a five-month investigation, the group said they uncovered evidence of hens being trapped, denied food and water, and distressing conditions in cages.

They said the distressing footage taken at Bird Bros, based at Sunny Farm in Swinshead, shows hens deprived of sunlight and confined to wire mesh floors, bearing severe feather loss and exhibiting apparent, profound distress.

Lidl said it had immediately launched an investigation and would not take any more supplies from the farm until it had been completed.

Campaigners claim the conditions in the farm amount to neglect Credit: Animal Justice Project

In footage released by Animal Rights Project, a worker is filmed roughly slamming birds into cages and hitting hens with shovels.

The group also alleges that one instance of neglect, where the hens were given no water and were not checked for months, led to the discovery of hundreds of dead animals.

Tayana Simons, a campaigner for the group, said: "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 farm in Bedfordshire has 15 sheds Credit: Animal Justice Project

The group said the farm has 15 sheds and was estimated to house over half-a-million hens in colony cages - sometimes referred to as enriched cages - inside sheds with space for 52,000 birds each.

Responding to the investigation, Lidl said an investigation was launched on Thursday, and that it "immediately took action to suspend supply of product from the farm".

The farm is a very small supplier that only supplies into one of their 13 distribution centres, it added.

"We take animal welfare incredibly seriously and we expect our suppliers to meet all recognised farm assurance standards, including the British Lion Code of Practice.

"On receiving this information we immediately launched an investigation into Sunny Farm and will be working with third parties to undertake urgent audits to ensure the welfare standards expected are being met. We will not be taking any more product from this farm until the investigation has been concluded to our satisfaction.”

The UK produces around 10.6 billion eggs per year, and around 12.5 billion are eaten every year. Caged birds produce around 28% of UK eggs.

The British Egg Industry Council said: "We can confirm the farm involved was immediately audited. Stringent disciplinary proceedings are under way and while the process is ongoing it is inappropriate for us to comment further."

ITV News has approached Bird Bros Ltd for comment.