RSPCA Assured: Welfare scheme permanently drops AD Harvey over footage of workers kicking and stamping on hens
RSPCA Assured welfare scheme investigators say they were 'horrified' by the allegations against the AD Harvey catcher gangs
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A poultry handling company has been permanently dropped by the RSPCA's farm welfare scheme, after workers were caught on camera appearing to kick and stamp on hens.
The undercover footage, which appeared to show workers from RSPCA-approved abattoir AD Harvey kicking and stamping on hens, saw the Norfolk-based company suspended from the charity's farm animal welfare scheme - and reported to government investigators. The footage was released by animal rights group The Animal Justice Project last month, and featured workers known as "catcher gangs" working at four farms, including Kettleby Farm in Leicestershire.
An RSPCA Assured spokesperson said their investigation into the AD Harvey catching company was now complete. "We have made the decision to revoke their certificate and permanently remove their membership. This means they can no longer market or sell any products under the RSPCA Assured label."
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They continued: “We were horrified by the allegations made. No animal deserves to be treated poorly and we will not tolerate animal abuse." As well as launching an immediate investigation into the catching company, the RSPCA had also reported them to the Animal and Plant Health Agency - an official government body able to investigate and take action.
“We hope the public feel reassured that we take complaints of poor animal welfare concerning any of our RSPCA Assured members very seriously and we will not hesitate to suspend or remove members from the scheme if it is right to do so," the spokesperson said. “We always urge anyone with any concerns about any of our members to contact us straight away, without delay. This is so that we can immediately investigate, visit the premises and address any welfare issues as a priority.”
NationalWorld has approached AD Harvey for comment. The footage showed what appeared to be workers from the company kicking and throwing hens from their perches by their tailfeathers, even striking them with objects as they made their way through the facility, leaving birds lying injured or dead in their wake. They were recorded breaching RSPCA guidelines by carrying large amounts of hens to crates by just one leg, before shoving them in and slamming the crates closed - sometimes on their wings and heads.
When it was released, AD Harvey said in a statement that the footage "clearly shows some members of the AD Harvey bird catching team acting in a manner which was completely at odds with the standards of animal welfare to which we require our staff to work to... Those staff members are no longer employed by AD Harvey, and all other members of our bird catching staff are being retrained in the correct procedures."
A spokesperson said its partners "totally condemn any breaches of animal welfare legislation" and their teams were trained to deliver a service which ensured birds are treated with respect and care.
Animal Justice Project campaigner Tayana Simons told NationalWorld they were pleased RSPCA Assured had decided to drop the company permanently "after the shocking animal torture" their team had uncovered. "Time and time again we have exposed horrific abuse and suffering at farms certified by 'welfare' labels such as these, proving that they mean nothing to animals.
"No organisation that dedicates itself to ‘protecting’ animals should ever condone such blatant violence," she added. The Animal Justice Project would also like the RSPCA "to stop assuring the farming and killing of animals completely".