RSPCA dumped chicks

A member of staff has been suspended by poultry breeder Joice and Hill after 1,500 day-old chicks were dumped in a field last Friday.

The company said it had launched an internal investigation into the incident, after members of the public found the chicks in a field near Crowland on the Lincolnshire/Cambridgeshire border. Many had already died by the time the alarm was raised.

Joice and Hill, which specialises in the breeding and hatching of egg-laying chickens, confirmed the chicks had originated at its hatchery in Peterborough and had been sold to two men looking to purchase stocks of surplus chicks.

“Regrettably, and against company policy, our stringent vetting process - in place to ensure the eligibility and suitability of potential customers - was not completed to our usually high standards,” it said in a statement.

The day-old chicks were collected by Joice and Hill staff, but all ultimately had to be humanely euthanised due to the potential risk of the chicks having been exposed to avian influenza.

“We are deeply saddened by the fact this incident occurred and have put in place a range of steps to ensure the correct procedure in vetting potential third-party clients is fully adhered to by all members of our team,” a spokesman for the company added.

“Joice and Hill has, since its founding in the mid 1960s, a proud record of supplying a wide range of farmers and producers involved in the food production industry with quality chicks from its modern, multi-credited and Poultry Health Scheme-approved breeding and hatching facility, and will continue to ensure we work to the highest possible standards,” he added. “It was the first layer hatchery company to hold Freedom Food status when the RSPCA introduced this scheme 20 years ago.”

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said its investigation was ongoing and officers were following up several lines of enquiry.