Poultry firm ordered to pay over £118,400 for breaching animal welfare rules.

Moy Park's factory at Anwick. EMN-170407-170037001
Moy Park's factory at Anwick. EMN-170407-170037001

A Sleaford area poultry firm has been fined over £118,500 for breaching animal welfare regulations.

Moy Park pleaded guilty to four charges regarding incidents at the slaughterhouse of its Anwick processing factory when it appeared on Monday at Lincoln Magistrates Court in a prosecution investigated by Defra officials.

Lincoln Animal Rights Group demonstrate on the steps of Lincoln Magistrates Courts. EMN-170407-170319001

Lincoln Animal Rights Group demonstrate on the steps of Lincoln Magistrates Courts. EMN-170407-170319001

The company, whose head office is in Portadown, Northern Ireland admitted failing to comply with EU regulations regarding the welfare of animals at the time of killing on three occasions.

On June 7, 2016 the company failed to comply with rules requiring animals to be spared avoidable pain, distress or suffering during their killing and related operations, in that 518 birds from a load delivered to the premises of 6,336 were found to be dead on arrival after being left in the heat on board a truck.

On December 14 2016 the company breached the same rules when two containers of 315 live birds accidentally went through a washer. They were sprayed with pressurised water jets and disinfectant.

On a third occasion, on November 29, 2016 two containers of live birds tipped over by an automatic de-stacking machine on a slaughter line, resulting in some birds being crushed and others being trapped by their necks and wings between the crates and the module frame.

Adjourned from 01/06/2017, at request of the prosecution

Moy Park also admitted to a charge that on June 7, 2016 it failed to follow its standard operating procedures by failing to advise an official veterinarian of the incident when the 518 birds were found dead on arrival in a load delivered to the premises. Nor did the firm present a sample of 10 of the dead birds for the vet to undertake a post-mortem inspection, contrary to the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015.

The firm’s guilty plea was taken into account when sentenced. It was ordered to pay a total of £118,420 for not complying with the regulations regarding slaughter of the birds. This included fines of £33,500 for each of the three breaches of rules governing causing avoidable suffering or distress of the birds and ordered to pay £16,750 for failing to supply the birds for a post portem. The total figure also included a £70 payment toward victim services and £1,100 towards court costs.

A Defra spokesperson commented after the case: “We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and we take potential breaches of animal welfare legislation very seriously. The Food Standards Agency investigates all allegations of abuse in slaughterhouses and where welfare regulations are breached, appropriate action is taken.”

A Moy Park spokesperson said after the case: “We consider it our moral duty to care responsibly for our birds and these incidents, which were a result of a mechanical malfunction and a breakdown in procedures, are not acceptable to us.

“Each incident was thoroughly investigated and appropriate measures have been taken and are constantly monitored, including mechanical hardware and software improvements. As an additional response we have also introduced new procedures and training for employees. The automated systems we have invested in are widely recognised as delivering significantly higher animal welfare benefits than standard manual systems.

“We sincerely believe that the new measures we have in place today will help us to achieve our aim of providing the optimum welfare conditions for our birds at every stage in their life and development.”

A pressure group called Lincoln Animal Rights Group staged a peaceful demonstration outside the court to raise awareness.

Stephen Kingston said the group has campaigned against Moy Park for a while.

He said: “We believe what those poor animals went through is sickening. The fine is not enough, it is pocket money to big business like Moy Park. These issues will always happen when thousands of animals are packed onto trucks.

“We believe there is no humane way to kill an animal that does not want to die.”