Chicken farming probe at Southrepps after video shown to RSPCA

A poultry wholesaler has hit back at claims he mistreated chickens at a north Norfolk farm.

The RSPCA has launched an investigation into allegations made by campaigners, who took video including footage apparently showing 'broiler' chickens living among the rotting corpses of their fellow birds.

The film also appears to show chickens at Green Acres Farm in Southrepps being manhandled into crates before being shipped off for slaughter.

But poultry wholesaler Richard Pointer, who currently leases the land, says his chickens 'are not mistreated'.

The footage was captured by investigators from Hillside Animal Sanctuary in nearby Frettenham after they received an anonymous tip-off.

During four visits in first week of September, they also collected pictures of birds which appeared to be sick, with bald patches and shortness of breath.

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: 'The RSPCA was disturbed to see this unnecessary rough treatment of birds being put into transport containers, the birds that appeared to be sick and the dead birds decomposing among the live ones. There is no excuse for this kind of practice and we will be carrying out an investigation.'

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In its video Hillside describe the birds as 'broilers' - chickens that are purpose bred for their meat.

Wendy Valentine, founder of Hillside, said the birds had been living in 'atrocious conditions' and she and fellow staff were 'saddened but not surprised' by the footage.

Mr Pointer defended his actions, claiming the lighting used when filming by investigators - who he said broke into the shed - would have been 'damaging' to the chickens.

Mr Pointer has worked in the industry for more than 35 years and been on the Southrepps site for more than 20.

He added that the handling of the birds was to industry standard and that chickens had a 4-5pc mortality rate.

A press statement issued by a family member on behalf of the farm owners - who did not want to be named - said they retired more than 10 years ago, and were not involved in the running of the business. A lease had been agreed 'in good faith' but notice had now been given to terminate it.