OF&G response to “Fowl Play” Tonight programme

Date Published: 12/06/2007

After viewing the ITV Tonight Programme on organic chicken (Monday, June 11), OF&G has issued the following statement:

Organic Farmers & Growers remains unconvinced by the footage shown in ITV’s Tonight Programme “Fowl Play” of one of it’s licensees.

The unit in question had been inspected by OF&G a short time prior to these allegations arising and again within one day of the claims made by ITV being raised.

TNP passed the inspection and proved to be a good example of an organic poultry producer, meeting (and even exceeding) the required, stringent standards.

While the birds in the footage shown were gathered towards the corner of the building, this is only to be expected when they are startled by people with lights and cameras coming into their houses at night.

In fact, the birds on TNP’s farms are stocked at very low levels per house, although apparently they sometimes choose to gather together in one or two houses – flocking, as birds tend to do.

There was a shot of one bird with some feathers missing. While we are concerned to see this we are aware that on occasion this can happen in any flock, be it organic or non-organic. It is how the farmer deals with this when it arises that is critical. OF&G’s own investigations show the incidence of this to be extremely low on this farm.

Images of chick body parts on the floor would be of concern if OF&G believed this was commonly allowed to occur on TNP premises. There is no reason to believe that. The Tonight Programme’s claim that chicks had been “eaten alive by rats” can only be conjecture (many other predators exist around farms) and OF&G believes it highly unlikely as the site has been proven not to have a rat infestation problem.

The apparently sodden conditions were also not convincing. If those shots were taken by a door it would be unsurprising if it were somewhat wet. OF&G’s own inspectors (and those of many other competent inspection bodies) are more than happy with what they have seen for themselves on this and other TNP sites.

With regard to the outdoor images of the sheds with no ranging birds, the owners believe this to have been taken at a time when the houses were empty. The birds would normally be ranging freely.

Serious doubt must be cast on the footage, which can at best be described as out of context.

Organic Farmers & Growers would like to once again re-state its support of current conditions and practices at Stowbeden Farm (and other TNP organic units). In light of the allegations raised by the Tonight Programme OF&G will continue to monitor this operator closely in the coming months and will not hesitate to withdraw certification if it is warranted, as with any licensee.