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Investigation: Chicks Killed With Workers’ Bare Hands

Workers on four major UK farms killed animals by stretching or snapping their necks, leaving many to suffer prolonged deaths.
August 19, 2020 Updated: August 20, 2023
Ingredient,Plant,Cuisine,Dish,Food,Water bird,Ducks Bird,Beak,Snout,farmed animal,Hay,Water bird

Animal Equality UK has exposed devastating animal suffering on four chicken farms linked to a major chicken brand. The farms are all operated by Moy Park – one of the UK’s biggest chicken producers and a supplier to Tesco grocery stores, as well as McDonald’s.


●  Chicks tossed onto farm floors from high off the ground, causing injuries and even death for some birds
●  Hundreds of chickens killed or left to die in agony on-site each day – in one case 500 birds were killed in a single shed within a 24-hour period – due to the animals’ apparent weakness or small size.
●  Workers killing birds by stretching or snapping their necks or, in many instances, cutting the animals’ necks against sharp edges of nearby buckets or metal feed lines. Alarmingly, some chicks move frantically or blink for minutes after this, showing they likely suffered before eventually dying.
●  Chicks trapped in overcrowded barns, unable to access outdoor sunlight or engage in anything that was natural or important to them.
●  Chickens suffering from injuries and leg deformities due being bred to grow too large, too quickly.

Paperwork on bulletin boards at the farm showed evidence that all four farms were independently audited by Integra Food Secure Ltd (NSF International), a service provider approved and contracted by Tesco at the time of filming. The paperwork also detailed a list of ‘Tesco contacts’ including a Tesco executive.

Filming took place in late 2019, and we passed the footange on to Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency, the RSPCA and Red Tractor, an organization meant to certify and confirm the standards of farms in the UK, in early 2020.

“IT’S ABOUT MAKING MONEY”: When Animal Equality’s investigator questioned other employees about the alarmingly high rate of chicken deaths on-site, one Moy Park farm worker said: “I can look at a day-old chick and say that’s going to make 1.8 kilos at 32 days or it’s not. If it isn’t, there’s no point feeding it. It’s cheaper to kill it and get rid of it. Because at the end of the day it’s about making money.”

Adding, “Mr. Tesco will say, ‘right, I want 100,000 birds at 1.8 kilos.”

The worker also stated, “If I’m going to grow a bird for 30 days, feed it, keep it warm, let it drink the water and everything else, and then it not get processed at the factory because it’s not big enough, it’s just rejected, then I’ve just spent a pound feeding it. Well the more of those you can get out, the better the profitability of the farm will be; the better the profitability of the company will be.”

Whilst many sectors struggle, supermarkets have seen a surge in sales over recent months. Following initial panic buying and continued stockpiling due to COVID-19, Tesco reported a steep rise in sales, with online purchases up by 48.5% in the first quarter of 2020. The major food retailer is forecasted to see pre-tax profits of nearly $400 million more compared to last year’s tax year.

THE REALITY OF MODERN CHICKEN FARMING: This is not the first time that we’ve uncovered serious animal suffering on Moy Park chicken farms. In 2019, we filmed birds living in horrifying conditions in huge double-decker sheds. Dead chicks were left to rot for days and many of those that were still living had serious leg injuries. 

And, just days ago, we revealed covert footage from another eight farms operated by the major chicken meat producer. Chickens on these farms were similarly confined in severely overcrowded barns and dying in droves. Other smaller birds were intentionally deprived of water as drinkers are routinely raised to a height that they are unable to reach. Many chickens were also found to have developed burns on their feet and chests from the urine-soaked floors.

WHAT MOY PARK IS SAYING: Despite these findings, a Moy Park spokesperson claimed that, “the overall flocks are displaying natural behaviors and appear in good health in most of the footage.”

WHAT WE’RE SAYING: Abigail Penny, Executive Director of Animal Equality UK, said, “It is of grave concern to me that, in Moy Park’s view, there were ‘no major breaches’ and that the horrific practices filmed are permitted under current Red Tractor standards. Clearly, this is what modern chicken farming looks like. But as consumers, we hold the greatest power of all and we don’t have to buy into this. You can spare animals from a lifetime of suffering, simply by choosing not to eat them.”

TAKE ACTION FOR CHICKENS: If you’re appalled by this cruelty – most of which is standard industry practice – you have the power to help chickens every time you sit down to eat. Please, keep animals off your plate.


United Kingdom

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