Discount supermarket Lidl has been accused of "shocking and systemic animal cruelty" in an undercover investigation, claims which they have today denied.

The animal protection and campaign group The Humane League posted an 'exposé' by Open Cages UK showing what they described as "troubling scenes".

Open Cages UK is a British charity that was "created to oppose the suffering and exploitation of farmed animals".

In the video, posted this morning, June 20, deceased chickens could be seen littering a farm which supposedly supplies food manufacturing company 2 Sisters, believed to be in Lincolnshire.

Their investigation claimed:

Birds routinely run over. Chickens are regularly run over by forklift trucks, something which workers described as ‘part of the job and can’t really be avoided’.

Major welfare issues. The chickens on the farm are routinely suffering from welfare issues such as broken bones, heart attacks, arthritis, ammonia burns, and overcrowded conditions.

Severe injuries. Chickens were found still alive with severe injuries. One bird was seen crawling on the floor with broken legs. Another was gasping with an open wound exposing their internal organs.

Open Cages UK has urged retailers to adopt the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) standards.

The BCC is a set of improved chicken welfare standards backed by the RSPCA and supported by the UK government.

Supermarkets including M&S, Waitrose and Lidl France are among over 550 companies to have signed up.

After being approached for comment, a Lidl spokesperson told Newsquest: "The materials you reference below are misleading and misrepresentative of facts."

They then listed "the facts" as below:

  • The farm depicted in the footage does not supply Lidl GB
  • It does, however, supply other UK supermarkets including Aldi, Co-op, Tesco and Asda
  • The supplier has condemned the footage
  • 2 Sisters confirmed that data from the time of the footage suggests birds were healthy and well managed
  • Multiple audits since then also confirm this is the case today. The supplier has personally visited the farm and had an independent vet visit in addition to the farm being red tractor approved
  • The farm is not in breach of any legislative requirements
  • Red Tractor has confirmed that the farm was subject to a regular independent inspection earlier this year and found to comply with Red Tractor core standards
  • As the farm is a Red Tractor farm, it could supply to any and all of 2 Sisters’ customers, particularly its biggest customers (see below)
  • 2 Sisters is the sole supplier of Aldi and Co-op, and the majority supplier of other retailers
  • The original media owner that was first approached with the story in the UK, which chose not to report on the claims, conceded that it could not guarantee the footage was an accurate and fair reflection of reality
  • Based on false allegations made by Open Cages, which have been disproved by the supplier, we have reason to believe that footage supplied to the original media was manipulated

The Humane League stated on their website: "New undercover investigations into Lidl chicken farms have exposed a shocking and systemic animal cruelty scandal.

"Despite being the fastest-growing UK supermarket, Lidl is refusing to end the suffering of millions of chickens in its supply chain.

"By signing up to the Better Chicken Commitment, Lidl could eradicate some of the cruellest practices endured by the chickens they raise for meat."

Connor Jackson, CEO and Co-founder of Open Cages told the Mirror: ”Not only are these defenceless animals suffering from infections, broken bones and burns from laying in their own waste.

"They’re in ever-present danger of being carelessly run over and torn apart.”

He added: “Lidl won’t solve this by cutting ties with one farm.

"The only way for Lidl to address this problem is to sign the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC).”