Farm standards are called into question

The standards of farms that make ethical claims for their food, including some RSPCA Freedom Food farms, has been questioned on television, after undercover footage showed a duck punched in the face and the apparent neglect of pigs and turkeys on four separate Norfolk farms.

Tonight with Trevor McDonald, which was screened on 13 March on ITV, showed staff mistreating ducks by lifting them by their necks at Cherrydene Farm, Bergh Apton. Dead ducks were shown in an open bin and lame ducks were kept in a filthy condition. Manor Farm Ducklings, which is supplied by Cherrydene, said the employee involved was disciplined.

Three Freedom Food certified farms are also featured. Footage of Hall Farm in Caston, which rears turkeys, showed injured and diseased birds. It has now ceased production. Footage shot inside White House Farm in Blo Norton shows lame and diseased ducks. The farm was owned by AE Button, a subsidary of Kerry Foods at the time. Its new owner, Green Label, said it has shut it down.

May pig farm in Rakheath supplies Sainsbury's and Waitrose. The programme shows wet and heavily soiled pens, with no dry area, but the farm said it had not contravened Freedom Food rules and had an exemplary record.

Bill Swann, former head of veterinary at the RSPCA, said: "It's so easy to become desensitised to the fact that these are living, sentient animals, which can feel pain. The punching is just a gratuitous act and there's no excuse for that."

Jackie Ballard, director general of the RSPCA said the footage showed, "some examples of very poor animal welfare".