June 16, 2022 7.00 pm

Lincolnshire duck egg farm faces backlash after welfare expose

The farm has issued a response

A vegan campaigning charity captured video footage of what they describe as “appalling conditions” at a Lincolnshire duck egg farm, but the family-run business said inspections concluded it is “operating to good standards”.

Quack Duck Eggs is based at Field Farm on Walcott Road in Billinghay and the firm, and generations of its family before, have been farming since the 1800s.

The eggs have been stocked at Lincolnshire Co-op stores, although this has been suspended by the supermarket chain while investigations are ongoing. Fresh food supplier Noble Foods, who work with major supermarkets including Tesco, and egg producers Stonegate, have also both suspended supplies pending their own investigations.

Viva!, which describes itself as the ‘UK’s leading vegan campaigning charity’ said it filmed footage “over two decades after we first exposed duck factory farming”. The investigation took place this spring, with cameras in place between March 7 and April, 26, 2022, according to the charity.

It said that following a tip-off from an ex-worker, who “reported extreme acts of animal cruelty and horrendous living conditions,” the charity’s campaigners launched an investigation.

Viva! said: “Undercover footage reveals shocking scenes from inside the farm of lame birds dragging themselves over extreta-ridden barn floors using their wings and workers brutally killing ducks by dislocating their necks – a shockingly legal practice – and leaving lame, sick and blind birds to suffer in pain.”

It added that “hidden cameras revealed that the ducks are left for more than 15 hours at a time without checks between the afternoon and the following morning,” and that it found “numerous male ducks mixed in with the females”. Hidden cameras also captured workers “dumping eggs that are unfit for human consumption on surrounding land,” according to Viva!

A spokesperson for Quack Duck Eggs released a statement to The Lincolnite, which said: “As a family-owned and run business, our number one priority is to provide our ducks with the highest standards of care and welfare. With this in mind and with issues identified, these have been rectified alongside veterinary advice.

“Since this footage was taken, last year, every poultry house on the farm has been inspected by our customers, an independent vet and the APHA notified. Each of these inspections concluded the farm is operating to good standards including the health and welfare of the birds.”

Viva! said this image shows a lame duck using her wing to move. | Photo: Viva!

Viva! is planning a ‘Lincolnshire Day of Action’ with a protest outside the Lincolnshire Co-op store on Sincil Street in Lincoln between 12pm and 2pm on Saturday, June 18.

Although Lincolnshire Co-op has temporarily suspended sale of duck eggs from the supplier, Viva! said the protest will still go ahead as it wants more action to be taken.

A spokeswoman for the charity told The Lincolnite: “The protest is still going ahead. The aim is to get Lincolnshire Co-op to permanently cut ties with Field Farm and never buy from them again, as opposed to temporarily suspending the sale.”

There will be two Viva! team members at the protest, along with local Lincolnshire animal rights groups, who will stand outside Lincolnshire Co-op’s store with banners and leaflets.

The spokeswoman added: “They will then chat with members of the public who are visiting the supermarket to make them aware of what is going on, and that their local supermarket is acquiring produce from a farm with cruel practises.”

Viva! claimed its footage captured “appalling conditions” at the farm. | Photo: Viva!

A spokesperson for Lincolnshire Co-op said: “We have received concerns regarding a welfare issue connected to Quack! Duck Eggs. We strive to operate ethically and, as such, take this very seriously.

“We have suspended further purchases of stock of Quack! Duck Eggs from the supplier while investigations are ongoing. This suspension started on the day we first received the information.

“Our investigations involve consulting with various outside bodies including Trading Standards, the local environmental health authority, and the supplier.

“As well as the important issue of animal welfare, we are mindful that these allegations concern a local business. Our investigations will take time to ensure we are being as thorough as possible.”

A spokesperson for Noble Foods said: “We were made aware of this footage showing confronting images from a farm that supplies duck eggs to Noble Foods and other packers. We immediately suspended our supply from this site and stopped all pending orders while an investigation could begin.

“Our investigation into the site continues, and supply remains suspended. The welfare of poultry is critical to Noble Foods and our customers.”

Stonegate also issued a statement which said: “The care and welfare of flocks supplying Stonegate are of the utmost importance to us, and the conditions depicted in the footage shared with us are shocking and inexcusable.

“We take allegations of mistreatment of birds very seriously. We immediately suspended the farm in question pending both our own investigation and the reports of qualified independent veterinarians, as well as insisting that the farm refer the matter for review by APHA.

“Due to an Avian Influenza outbreak last year the government imposed a national housing order, which ran from 29 November 2021 to 2 May 2022, meaning ducks have had to be housed inside for their own protection. The supervising vet has recently determined that the local level of Avian Influenza is acceptable, which has allowed the ducks to go outside and range safely again.”