Hoads Farm, near Rye, issues statement after 150-person protest saw accreditation suspended

Hoads Farm, near Rye, says it operates ‘above and beyond the already high standards laid down by the British industry’ despite having its animal welfare accreditation suspended after a protest by 150 animal activists.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 2:48 pm
Hoads Farm. Picture supplied by DxE Brighton

Protesters from Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) arrived at the farm, in Northiam Road, Broad Oak, at 6am on Monday (January 27).

They said 150 activists filed in ‘under the cover of darkness’ while six others made their way to the end of the farm’s driveway to lock themselves to one another in heavy chains.

The group said the aim of the demonstration was to hold the free-range industry accountable and ‘expose its harsh reality to consumers’.

Following the protest, a spokesman for RSPCA Assured, the ethical food label dedicated to farm animal welfare, said it had suspended Hoads Farm’s animal welfare accreditation after seeing the footage filmed by DxE Brighton.

On Wednesday (January 29), a spokesman for Hoads Farm denied the allegations made against it.

They said: “Hoads Farm operates above and beyond the already high standards laid down by the British egg industry.

“Following this incident, we asked the RSPCA to carry out an inspection of our site, which they completed yesterday. As we expected, they reported the hens being in good health and with good feather cover.

“Additionally, we also had a fully qualified poultry vet visit the site yesterday, and, apart from the consequences of the protestors’ actions, again he raised no concerns.

“DEFRA also visited the site, accompanied with an independent vet, who reported the following: ‘No non-compliance for animal welfare noted at time of inspection, all compliant for welfare or free range birds. Compliant production unit and egg collection area. No issues identified’.

“The welfare of our birds is of paramount importance to us, and we strongly refute the allegations made by these so-called animal rights activists. We also question the integrity of the images used.

“And, being the fourth farm in the area to be targeted by animal rights activists, we believe Monday’s incident is part of a targeted campaign against egg production facilities.”

“The actions of these 100 or more individuals which included criminal damage and theft, has not only distressed the very birds they claim to care about, but has compromised the bio security measures in place to keep the hens safe from infection.”

On Wednesday, RSPCA Assured said: “We can confirm that an RSPCA farm livestock officer has visited the farm and the new flock of birds seen today was in good health, with good feather cover. However, our investigations are ongoing.”

On Monday, RSPCA Assured said they were ‘shocked and appalled’ by the footage filmed by activists.

They added: “Any allegations of poor welfare issues on RSPCA Assured certified farms are taken extremely seriously, which is why we have suspended the farm whilst we urgently investigate.”

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: “We have very serious concerns about some of the hens and the conditions shown. On any farm, it’s important that any sick or injured animal receives attention quickly and that if any birds die their bodies are removed promptly.

“We would encourage anyone with concerns about animal suffering to report it to us at the time so we can take swift action.”

During the protest, police were called in to defuse the situation.

At the end of the nine-and-a-half hours of negotiations, activists left Hoads Farm with 50 of the 32,000 hens, which a spokesman said would be released into animal sanctuaries. DxE said they would not stop fighting for the remaining 31,950 hens.