Booths ditches egg farm amid RSPCA probe into video footage

A quail.''pic credit Natural England
A quail.''pic credit Natural England
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A controversial video posted online has sparked an investigation into conditions at a Fylde coast quail farm.

Supermarket chain Booths said it will stop selling eggs from Fayre Game, on Lodge Lane in Lytham, in the wake of the footage posted on Facebook, claiming to show birds being kept in battery conditions.

However, bosses at the farm insisted the quails are kept in ‘conditions that are compliant with current legislation’ – and above minimum legal requirements.

The video clip, taken by Lodge Lane resident Julian Aspinall, allegedly shot at the farm, appears to show hundreds of quails, some with feathers missing in crowded cages. The RSPCA is investigating.

Mr Aspinall, 49, said he went onto the farm’s land on Sunday to find someone to speak to about an overflowing manhole.

He added: “I went over on the off chance that somebody was there and happened to pull on a door that went straight into the quail shed.

“I was absolutely shocked and appalled at the sight.

“There’s nowhere for them to fly unless its to the top of the cage and back down. I counted at least a dozen dead birds in cages. The stench was grotesque.

“I presumed in this day and age that that type of battery farming was totally unacceptable and illegal, and I was shocked to see them in such an awful state.”

But Howard Warmisham, at Fayre Game, said the quails are kept in conditions that do not violate government legislation on poultry farming.

He said: “We are in regular dialogue with government body Animal and Plant Health Agency and its representatives. We speak with them on a weekly basis to ensure we follow strict requirements and guidelines set out by them.

“In addition, we also work with the relevant local authorities on inspections and ensure we meet their guidelines too. We also acknowledge EU requirements. For example, current EU guidelines specify that it is appropriate to farm 40 birds in a square metre but we limit this to 30 square metres.”

Fayre Game Quail Farm hit national headlines in 2007 after allegations of animal cruelty, which led to reports that Harrods and Selfridges had taken its products off their shelves. The firm said at the time it maintained ‘the highest welfare standards’.

Now, in the wake of the latest video, supermarket chain Booths, which stocks eggs from Fayre Game, said it will stop selling them while it investigates.

A spokesman said: “At Booths, issues of food safety and provenance are of principal importance to our business. We have withdrawn this product from sale and are reviewing the matter with our supplier immediately to investigate the situation.”

Mr Warmisham said Fayre Game was aware of the decision and that they would work with Booths to agree to a satisfactory outcome.

Andrew Lanigan, owner of Lanigans in Lytham, which also sells eggs from the farm, said: “Until environmental health tells me it is a problem I’ll continue to sell them.”

An RSPCA spokesman said the charity was looking into ‘concerns around the welfare of quails’ at the farm.