A FREE-RANGE egg farm which was suspended yesterday over “appalling” footage filmed at the site supplied eggs to top supermarkets while promising to be “committed to higher welfare”.

Hoads Farm near Rye in England's East Sussex supplied several major stores including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco.

But the RSPCA has launched an urgent investigation into the site after 150 members of animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) Brighton stormed the farm in the early hours of yesterday and filmed horrifying scenes of rotting chicken corpses strewn across the floor.

Other images showed animals with severely swollen cloacae, the area from which eggs, faeces and urine are excreted.

Glasgow Times:

Other images showed animals with severely swollen cloacae, the area from which eggs, faeces and urine are excreted.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “These are deeply disturbing and unacceptable images.

“We expect all brands sold at Tesco to uphold high animal welfare standards and will closely review the results of the investigations into this farm.”

It is understood the store will not sell the farm’s eggs until the RSPCA investigation is completed.

Glasgow Times:

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said the supermarket chain is also not accepting products from Hoads Farm while the investigation is conducted.

She said: “The welfare of our animals is extremely important and we are investigating these allegations.”

In a statement today, DxE said it has “liberated” 51 hens “in a bid to hold the ‘free-range’ industry accountable and expose its harsh reality to consumers”.

Glasgow Times:

The group said 25 police were present at the site after members descended on the farm at 6am yesterday.

One activist said: “As everyone marched out proudly with the 50 hens I stayed behind and said goodbye and sorry to the thousands of others we were leaving behind.

“Let’s keep them in our minds.”

But on its website Hoads Farm claims it has “helped pioneer the growth in commercial free range egg production”.

Glasgow Times:

It states: “Today, we remain relatively unique in that we have never compromised our values, having only ever sold genuine free range eggs.

“It is these values for animal welfare, high quality standards and sustainability that underpin how the business is run to this day.”

But, after being sent a video of the site by DxE, a spokeswoman for the RSPCA said the organisation is “shocked and appalled by this footage and we understand why people are upset”.

Glasgow Times:

She continued: ““Any allegations of poor welfare issues on RSPCA Assured certified farms are taken extremely seriously, which is why we have suspended the farm whilst we urgently investigate.”

Hoads Farm told the BBC its standards met both EU law and those set by RSPCA Assured and BEIC Lion standard.

A spokesman said they had invited the RSPCA to visit and confirm that free range standards were being met.

They added that a vet had been on site Monday afternoon and identified “no issues”.

Glasgow Times:

He said: “(The video footage) is in no way reflective of our farms and/or the welfare of our hens.

“All sites are routinely visited by independent bodies both announced and unannounced to ensure standards are maintained.”

Our sister title The Argus has contacted Hoads Farm and Asda for comment.