Police are at a farm in East Sussex where 150 animal rights activists have gathered to ‘hold the free-range industry accountable’.
Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) Brighton arrived at Hoads Farm, in Northiam Road, Broad Oak, at 6am on Monday (January 27).
They said 150 activists filed into the farm ‘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’.
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.
They added: “We are shocked and appalled by this footage and we understand why people are upset.
“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 RPSA 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.”
Police said they were called to Hoads Farm at 8.15am on Monday.
Superintendent Howard Hodges said: “Whilst we respect the right of individuals to protest however we have to balance this with the rights of the workers and the farm to go about its normal business.
“We are working with farm and protesters to bring this to a peaceful resolution.”
Hoads Farm supplies eggs to Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Morrisons and Tesco.
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.