Video footage of turkeys being thrown, crushed, kicked and crammed into crates by farm hands has painted a grim picture of the truth behind
Free range turkeys are promoted to shoppers as ethically produced because they are allowed to roam free, scratch around in the dirt and eat a natural diet.
As such, the farmers involved are able to charge a premium price of anything from £70 to over £130 for a single bird.
Animal Defenders International went undercover at a turkey farm in Essex where they filmed more than 2,500 birds being rounded up by a gang of catchers over a three-hour period
The turkeys were being loaded up into crates and placed on trucks to go to slaughter
The animal welfare organisation claimed some of the birds had been mistreated
However, undercover footage from a turkey farm in Essex reveals a worrying picture of the catching process as the fully grown turkeys are crammed into crates to be taken away by lorry for slaughter.
Over a three-hour period, a gang of catchers was secretly filmed rounding up more than 2,500 of the birds.
The undercover footage was captured by investigators from Animal Defenders International, which says the treatment of the turkeys appears to contradict guidelines issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The guidelines say farm workers should ‘avoid unnecessary struggling which could bruise or otherwise injure the birds’.
ADI claimed that up to nine of the large turkeys were crammed into a single crate, which is against Defra guidelines.
The footage shows workers grabbing turkeys by their wings, necks and a single leg, which is at odds with recommendations from the Humane Slaughter Association. Birds are thrown into the crates, trapping wings and other body parts, instead of being lowered gently.
Some of those working with the turkeys appeared to kick them to force them into a crate
One bird that attempts to escape is grabbed by the neck and slammed head first into a crate. A worker is seen swinging what appears to be a dead turkey like a club, hitting other birds as they try to run away.
Other workers kick turkeys or use their full weight to cram the flapping birds into the already full crates, risking injury to the wings, legs, neck and head.
The ADI investigation of the turkey barn in East Hanningfield, Essex, was carried out over two weeks from November 20 to December 3, using hidden cameras. The loading of more than 2,500 turkeys was documented on November 28.
The president of ADI, Jan Creamer, who advocates veganism, said: ‘Free range does not mean cruelty free.’ The campaign group has sent its findings to the Animal Plant & Health Agency, which investigates such incidents, and to Food and Farming Minister George Eustice.
Andrew Knight, professor of animal welfare and ethics at the University of Winchester, said: ‘I was disgusted to see the violent treatment of these turkeys.
‘Fractures and serious injuries would have been inevitable, as well as extreme levels of stress and fear. There is no excuse for such cruelty.’