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Wetherspoon, Tesco and Lidl ban beef from mega farm amid evidence of appalling cruelty

Wetherspoon, Tesco and Lidl have banned beef sourced from a concrete mega farm amid evidence of appalling cruelty and abuse.

Cattle reared in sheds on the US-style factory farm suffered severe lameness, making it painful and difficult to walk.

Secret filming showed stockmen beating and abusing the animals at the unit, which operates from concrete-floor lots rather than green fields in a so-called ‘zero grazing’ system.

One violently threw a bucket at the head of a young bull sending him crashing to the floor.

Workers are heard discussing the poor state of the animals, suggesting that in the past some had been ‘dying left right and centre’.

The images were captured at Berryfields Farm, Daventry, which is understood to rear more than 4,000 bull calves a year.

As a result of the revelations, the farm has been suspended from the Red Tractor scheme, whose logo on packs is designed to be a guarantee of high standards for consumers.

Cattle from the farm are transported to a Foyle Food Group slaughterhouse at Melton Mowbray. The resulting steaks, mince and joints are sold on to customers, who include Wetherspoon, Tesco and Lidl.

Wetherspoon has been heavily involved in the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which offers cheap meals to diners.

Spokesman Eddie Gershon said the pub chain would no longer be taking any meat from the farm.

He said: ‘We take animal welfare seriously and audit all our food suppliers regularly.

‘We are concerned about the allegations and have made this clear to Foyle Food Group.’

Tesco said: ‘These are disturbing and unacceptable images. We require all our suppliers to uphold high animal welfare standards, and have immediately suspended this farm.’

Lidl confirmed it has also suspended taking beef sourced from the farm following the allegations.

Historically, bull calves from dairy cows have been shot soon after birth because they had little value. However, they are now an increasingly important source of cheap beef in the catering, takeaway and supermarket trade. Farmers argue this is kinder than simply disposing of them.

Filming was carried over a five month period by the Animal Justice Project. Spokesman, Claire Palmer, said it reveals a ‘catalogue of abuse and neglect’. 

She said: ‘Abusing cows by punching, kicking, throwing buckets in their faces, and hitting them with pipes can never be a kind option.’

Prof Andrew Knight, Veterinary Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, at the University of Winchester, said: ‘Lameness causes severe, long-term pain.

‘I was concerned to see significant numbers of severely lame cattle. Lameness may be caused by unsanitary flooring, due to bacterial infection’

He added: ‘Also very concerning was the abuse by workers. A bucket was violently thrown at a cow’s face, animals were struck with plastic piping, and subjected to swearing and yelling.’

A second veterinary expert, Molly Vasanthakumar, said: ‘The handling of cattle is extremely distressing. This physical abuse is totally unacceptable.’

A spokesman for Red Tractor said: ‘We were shocked and appalled by the footage of animals being mistreated. Poor animal health and welfare is always unacceptable.

‘As soon as we were made aware of the footage, we launched an investigation.

‘Due to breaches of our standards relating to animal welfare and livestock transport, Berryfields Farm certification from our scheme has been suspended.’

The Foyle Food Group, which is based in Northern Ireland, did not respond to requests for comment, however it told customers: ‘Given the on-going investigation we have taken the decision to suspend any supply from this supplier until we can gain information from Red Tractor on the situation.’

The farm involved is managed by John Bell, who is well known in the farming community and has served on a number of industry bodies. He did not respond to requests for a comment.

It is understood the animals at the centre of the cruelty allegations were owned and reared by a third party business. Mr Bell is said to have given this third party instructions to remove its stock from the farm. 

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