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A new investigation from Animal Justice Project reveals trampled and rotting hens on a farm that supplies eggs to the grocery giant Lidl.
Words by Grace Hussain
New footage captured by the advocacy group Animal Justice Project during a five month investigation of an egg farm linked to the grocery chain Lidl features hens who have been trampled to death and dead birds left to decompose in their cages. The farm, Sunny Farm, is a megafarm owned by Birdbros that is home to more than half a million chickens. Now, Lidl has announced it has dropped Sunny Farm as a supplier.
Warning: graphic footage
Headquartered in Germany, Lidl has stores throughout Europe as well as hundreds in the United States. Lidl has made a commitment to source cage-free eggs by the end of 2024. In both the EU and UK, traditional battery cages have been banned since 2012, but many farms — such as the one featured in the investigation — still use enriched cages. In the EU, legislation is in place to phase out all cages by 2027, but the UK has failed to take a similar step despite hundreds of thousands of residents signing petitions in support of such a measure.
Lidl’s animal welfare commitment includes a pledge to fulfill what are referred to as “the Five Freedoms” of animal welfare, including providing adequate food and water. But the footage released this week calls into question whether the chain is actually working with suppliers that fulfill this pledge.The investigation revealed hundreds of birds who had died due to neglect, including some hens who were not provided with fresh water for months on end.
Hens appear to be kept in enriched cages, which house between 40 and 90 hens per structure. Enriched cages provide for only 750 cm² space per bird, around the size of a sheet of paper.
Cages prevent hens from performing even the most basic natural behaviors, such as spreading their wings all the way.
The footage also reveals hundreds of birds dead and decomposing in their cages, abusive treatment by workers — including manual slaughter with no pain management, severe feather loss and exposure to harsh weather conditions.
According to Tayana Simmons, a campaigner for Animal Justice Project, the footage is evidence of a larger issue. “When animals are exploited for their ‘products’, their wellbeing will always come last,” she said in a press release.
Lidl and Birdbros did not respond to Sentient Media’s request for comment.
The new footage is just the most recent in a string of investigations shedding light on the standard treatment of hens on egg farms. While the European grocery chain did not respond to Sentient Media’s request for comment, most corporate responses follow a similar pattern — they tend to argue the farm under investigation is a bad actor while assuring the public that other supplier farms meet the company’s high welfare standards. However, these claims run counter to the findings of the numerous investigations by different organizations.
This is the second recent investigation into a supplier linked to Lidl, for instance. Late last year, Equalia, another non profit animal advocacy organization, revealed footage from two other farms operated by a Lidl supplier, which also showed numerous welfare violations.
According to a press release from Animal Justice Project, the latest footage “paints a stark reality, underscoring a significant discrepancy between the welfare claims made by Lidl and the actual treatment of farmed animals.”
There is “an urgent need for immediate legislative action,” said Simmons, in the press release.
According to a Compassion in World Farming poll, 77 percent of the UK supports a complete ban on cages while 88 percent believe that using cages in farming is cruel. Meanwhile, in the U.S. voters in California and other states have shown support for at least some welfare provisions.
Back in the UK, despite the overwhelming public support, the British government has failed to act, instead relying on the industry to evolve of its own accord, which is part of why the industry continues to use enriched cages.
While pressure tactics from animal welfare organizations have resulted in significant successes — 79 percent of eggs came from cage-free hens in the first quarter of 2023 — come 2025, more than 8 million chickens in the UK could still be in cages, with the potential to experience animal welfare abuses like those documented by Animal Justice Project.
This piece has been updated to include the development that Lidl has dropped Sunny Farm as an egg supplier.
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