Sussex police are investigating the theft of 50 hens, after hundreds of animal rights activists occupied a poultry farm this week (January 27).
The incident saw around 150 activists from Direct Action Everywhere descend on Hoads Farm, near Hastings, East Sussex, demanding the release of 100 hens.
Hoads Farm, which supplies free-range eggs to major UK supermarkets, said activists had caused ‘significant distress’ to the birds.
A spokesperson for Hoads Farm said: “The actions of these 100 or more individuals which included damage and theft, has not only distressed the very birds they claim to care about, but has compromised the biosecurity measures in place to keep the hens safe from infection.”
Taking to social media, the group posted a video allegedly showing sick birds and the activists were filmed taking 50 hens.
Concerns have been raised about how and where the birds will be kept.
Hoads Farm said it had invited the RSPCA to visit and to confirm ‘all necessary’ free range standards were being met, reporting the hens were in ‘good health’.
Defra also accompanied a vet on site Monday afternoon, confirming ‘no issues’ had been identified, its standards meeting both EU law and those set by RSPCA Assured and BEIC Lion Standard.
The farm spokesperson added: “The welfare of our birds is of paramount importance to us, and we strongly refute the allegations made by these so-called animal rights activists.
“We also question the integrity of the images used. And, being the fourth farm in the area to be targeted by animal rights activists, we believe Monday’s incident is part of a targeted campaign against egg production facilities.”
Sussex police said it was ‘working with the farm and protestors to bring this to a peaceful solution.’