A probe has been launched into allegations that hens were found suffering at a free-range egg farm in Scotland which supplies Asda and Tesco.

It comes after animal welfare activists claim to have witnessed “disturbing” conditions at Glenrath Farms in the Borders. 

Animal Justice Project said it conducted "extensive" visits to free-range, RSPCA Assured egg farms supplying major UK supermarkets such as M&S, Tesco and ASDA, between December 2023 and February 2024.

After seeing footage of the visits, RSPCA Assured - the RSPCA's not-for-profit farm animal welfare assurance scheme - has launched a probe. 

An RSPCA Assured spokesman said: “This footage is very distressing to watch and we launched an investigation as soon as we were made aware of it. 

READ MORE: Man who causing unnecessary suffering to ferrets and snake fined

“As part of that investigation, RSPCA Assured assessors have made unannounced inspections of the three farms that are members of the RSPCA Assured scheme. We’ve also analysed the footage to identify any breaches of the RSPCA welfare standards.  

“We can confirm that we have suspended one of the farms, pending further investigation. This means they cannot market or sell any products under the RSPCA Assured label. Our investigation into the other two farms is ongoing and we are unable to comment further at this time. 

“A fourth farm shown in the footage cancelled its membership in February 2024, so we are unable to investigate.

“Sadly, from time to time things can go wrong on farms, but one case of poor welfare is still one too many, which is why we have taken these allegations very seriously. 

“But with nearly 4,000 members on the scheme farming to higher welfare standards, many millions more farm animals are having a better life thanks to our work and dedicated members.

The Herald: Conditions were “disturbing” inside Glenrath Farms according to Animal Justice ProjectConditions were “disturbing” inside Glenrath Farms according to Animal Justice Project (Image: Animal Justice Project)

“We ask that anyone with concerns about an animal on an RSPCA Assured certified farm to always report it immediately, so that we can act swiftly. Any delay in reporting concerns means there is a significant risk of an animal being left to suffer unnecessarily.”

An RSPCA Assured spokesman confirmed to The Herald that Glenrath Farms is one of the farms currently under investigation. 

Animal Justice Project claims that footage shot by activists at Glenrath revealed "sick hens exhibiting symptoms of severe distress such as twisted beaks, swollen feet, and panting".

It added: "Numerous deceased hens were scattered throughout the premises. Central nesting areas were deliberately blocked off, and ‘enrichment’ efforts represented by plastic bucket lids and mesh scraps, remained untouched."

Animal Justice Project also claim that drone footage "revealed birds were denied access to the outdoors for four consecutive days during each visit in February 2024". 

Responding to the allegations, a spokesperson for Glenrath Farms told The Independent that bird welfare was a priority.

They said: "We’re disappointed animal activists chose to break into our farm, causing a significant biosecurity and disease risk. It is a criminal offence to break into a secure property.

“It looks as though the activists were in the shed whilst the birds were resting, which would cause them to become upset and distressed. When birds are resting nest boxes are routinely closed.

“Whilst a misshapen beak is unfortunate and the industry makes great efforts to ensure accurate beak trimming, occasionally some birds do still have misaligned beaks.” 

A vet who inspected the hens detected no welfare issues, the farm added.