Shocking footage from a five-month investigation reveals the harrowing life of egg-laying hens.

Bedfordshire, August 22, 2023 – Animal Justice Project [1], a prominent animal protection organisation, has released shocking footage [2] from an investigation spanning five months between late 2022 and early 2023 at 'Sunny Farm,' a 'megafarm' producing eggs in East Anglia.

As seen in the Mail Online [3], the distressing footage from Bird Bros Ltd, Sunny Farm, Pertenhall Road, Swineshead, Bedfordshire MK44 2SU unveils a harrowing scene of hens - deprived of sunlight and confined to wire mesh floors - bearing severe feather loss and exhibiting apparent, profound distress. Confined in abhorrently overcrowded and squalid conditions, caught in the mesh of their cages, visibly incapacitated and overwhelmed by panic. Dying, deceased, and decomposing hens littered the cages and shed floor. One worker is filmed roughly slammed birds into cages and hitting hens with shovels.

VIDEO: (clean version also available)

Key Investigation Findings:

  • Distressing and appalling conditions within cages
  • Trapped hens, with some dying and others being trampled upon
  • Neglect resulting in slow deaths or manual killing of sick and dying hens
  • Instances of neglect (no water and no checks for months) leading to the discovery of hundreds of dead hens, according to a worker
  • Daily findings of decomposing dead hens in their cages
  • Severe feather loss and bald patches on numerous hens
  • Rough and abusive treatment of hens by workers
  • Hens exposed to harsh weather conditions outside
  • Neglect causing hens to die from thirst and starvation

Owned by Bird Bros [4], a supplier to Lidl [5], the farm, which has 15 sheds, is estimated to house over half a million hens in colony cages - sometimes referred to as enriched cages - inside sheds with space for 52,000 birds each.

The footage shows significant numbers of eggs smashed on the floor, and eggs awaiting collection that were being touched by decomposing chicken carcasses. Salmonella bacteria, potentially from carcasses, can pass through egg shells, posing a food poisoning risk to consumers [6]. Large numbers of dead birds were also visible in garbage bags. The tops were open. This is likely to attract rodents, who could in turn spread disease. These observations cast a shadow over the credibility of the 'Lion Code of Practice,' which asserts adherence to over 700 'auditable criteria' and touts heightened hygiene measures that surpass the stipulations of both UK and EU regulations [7].

Animal Justice Project asserts that the footage illustrates the grim reality faced by millions of hens in Britain, reigniting the call for the government to ban hen cages - a demand echoed by over 100,000 petition signatures [8]. While major supermarkets have pledged to eliminate caged eggs from their supply chains by 2025 [9], estimates suggest that between 4.2 and 8.4 million hens might still endure caged conditions [10].

The investigation employed concealed cameras and placed an undercover worker within the facility to expose the harsh conditions experienced by the hens. The scenes, challenging to observe, were strongly condemned by veterinarian Dr. Andrew Knight, who emphasised the inhumane and unethical treatment of these animals.

With the intention of shedding light on the entire egg industry, Animal Justice Project has launched this investigation as the inaugural installment in a series scheduled to unfold over the coming months. The footage captured during the investigation paints a stark reality, underscoring a significant discrepancy between the welfare claims made by Lidl and the actual treatment of farmed animals [11].

The UK egg industry supplies approximately 12 billion eggs annually to consumers and 28% are from caged hens [12]. Whilst the European Union plans to eliminate all cages by 2027 [13], the UK has yet to make a decisive move in that direction.

The harrowing video evidence captured by Animal Justice Project showcases the immense suffering endured by these animals. The cramped and unsanitary conditions, combined with neglect and abusive treatment, are evident in the footage, emphasising the stark contradiction between claimed welfare standards and the reality endured by these hens.

In one scene, a worker is seen wringing a large chicken’s neck with his bare hands. The chicken subsequently flaps and moves her head. Dr. Knight explains, “Studies indicate that potential consciousness, and therefore suffering, may persist for a significant number of seconds after cervical dislocation has been performed. Accordingly, its use without prior stunning to induce unconsciousness is not recommended for the routine slaughter of poultry. After dislocation, the chicken is hung upside down by its legs, flapping its wings repeatedly and attempting to raise its head, indicating the persistence of consciousness, accompanied by severe pain and stress.”

In the UK, most new enriched colony cages are designed to hold between 40 and 80 birds. According to the farm manager, Sunny Farm houses 60 birds in each cage.

In colony cages, the birds are allotted an area roughly equivalent to an A4 sheet and a postcard [14]. Confined within sparse metal cages, the hens are deprived of the opportunity to engage in their natural behaviours. While most UK supermarkets, including Lidl, have committed to transitioning to cage-free eggs and products containing eggs by 2025 [15], the implementation of these bans is left to retailers. Animal Justice Project insists that the UK government must align with the European Commission's intentions to ban cages for all farmed animals [13] and consider imposing restrictions on imports from caged systems [16].

In March, the government acknowledged its evaluation of the use of cages for laying hens [17]. However, in June of this year, the government stated that it does ‘not consider the time is right to consult on cage reforms, being mindful of the challenges the sectors are facing. The market is already driving the move away from using cages for laying hen production’ [18].

Lidl has pledged its commitment to the ‘Five Freedoms of animal welfare’ [15] established by the government’s Farmed Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) to promote 'a life worth living.'

Tayana Simons, Campaigner for Animal Justice Project, emphasises, "The footage from Bird Bros exposes yet another example of how supermarkets' welfare claims translate to nothing for farmed animals. The distressing scenes underscore the urgent need for immediate legislative action.

She continues: "Laying hens are tragically exploited as 'egg machines' within the egg industry, enduring immense suffering. Confined to 'enriched cages,' their existence is anything but enriched. Our footage unveils scenes of unrelenting distress, agony, and death. These hens endure deplorable conditions—crowded spaces, filth, mites, noise, limited light,  panic and abuse. Hens are social, intelligent and sensitive animals who don’t deserve to suffer like this. It is essential that consumers see the grim reality of the suffering that they’re funding when they buy animal products. When animals are exploited for their ‘products’, their wellbeing will always come last, that‘s why we implore consumers to consider adopting a plant-based diet."

-- End --


All images and videos in this press release, on our social media, and website can be used with credit to Animal Justice Project under ‘fair use’ for the purposes of reporting.

For more information or further comments, please contact:
Claire Palmer MSc, Director - M: +44 (0)7851 497 827 E:
Ayton Cooper BSc, Campaigns Manager - M: + 44 (0) 7512 037157 E:



  • Battery cages for hens were banned by an EU directive in 2012. Since Jan 1st 2013, all cages in the UK have been replaced by larger, ‘enriched’ colony cages.
  • Enriched cage systems for hens are already banned in Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland while Germany's ban comes into force in 2025, the Czech Republic's in 2027 and Slovakia's in 2030, and France has already banned the installation of any new enriched cages.


  • Each enriched cage packs in between 40 and 90 birds giving them 750cm² per bird of space each. This is only 150cm² more than they had in battery cages.
  • Enriched cages must provide a) a small nesting area b) perches running along part of the cage c)a small scratching area with friable matter.

Bird Bros

  • Bird Bros are producers, packers, distributors of British Lion Quality and RSPCA Freedom foods free range and Enriched Colony caged eggs. They produce and supply around 200 million eggs a year from their Swineshead packing station serving major multiples, symbol groups, independent retailers, wholesalers and many other customers.



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