The appalling slaughter was reported by chance by a policeman on another investigation.
The following account was published recently in the Farmers Weekly (22 June 2012):
Thousands of chickens slaughtered illegally
More than 130,000 chickens a year were being slaughtered illegally on a farm in "appalling conditions" a court has heard.
Farmer Robert Skerry, 54, operated the illegal slaughterhouse at Game Farm, Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, where his customers killed birds without wearing protective clothing, carcasses were left in the open air and bloody water was discharged into a stream.
Opening the case at St Albans Crown Court, Richard Heller, prosecuting, said: "This is one of the most serious cases of operating an unlawful slaughter house."
Mr Heller said an investigation had been launched after PC Richard Ballinger called to the farm on an unrelated matter on 4 May 2010.
He became concerned when he saw the chicken slaughterhouse and some Asian men, not wearing protective clothing or hairnets, killing chickens. There was blood on the floor and between 50 and 100 dead chickens were piled up in the open air. Bloody water from a pipe was being discharged into a stream and there were hundreds of rotting feathers and lumps of meat.
PC Ballinger spoke to Dacorum Council's Environmental Health officers and on May 12 Environmental Health Officer Joanne Lee-Dadd visited the farm and found "appalling conditions of hygiene".
On May 26 the Environmental Health Officers put a notice in place ordering the slaughtering to stop.
When questioned the farmer said he was paying 42p for each bird, but refused to say how much he was receiving. He said on a bad day he would have three or four customers, but on a good day he could have 100.
Mr Skerry pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to comply with legislation in a prosecution brought by Dacorum Council before Watford Magistrates Court on 18 July last year. The case was sent to St Albans Crown Court for sentence.
The court heard that the farmer had been prosecuted in 2004 for allowing chickens, slaughtered on his premises, to be sold for commercial purposes, but was not aware that the law had been tightened to prevent people supplying meat from unregistered slaughterhouses for private use.
This account shows one aspect of the killing of spent hens – but there is obviously quite a trade as they fetch 42p per bird. A spokesperson for Whipsnade Zoo admitted that it had bought chickens from the farm but said this stopped when the illegal activities became known.
This is evidence of the sort of things that go on in what is supposed to be a closely regulated trade and it accounts for our distress that such happenings occur. Zoos do need dead animals such as chickens to feed carnivorous animals and this is another contentious issue. So many scientific and technical inventions make it possible to learn about animals in their natural environments.
One wonders if they disclose their sources of meat for kept animals with such detail and if the trade is necessary. But while there is so much slaughter, it offers a convenient route of disposal of a lot of freshly dead animals.
Again the veterinary profession is found to be wanting in efforts to curb this trade which adds a nasty touch to the welfare matters and supervision at zoos. It is not known whether meat from the farm was sold for human consumption.
Last year, the Independent (27 July 2011) reported the case of a taxidermist who was using Game Farm to trade in endangered species:
Hollywood animal supplier charged over illegal trading
A taxidermist whose firm supplied stuffed animals to dozens of Hollywood films from the Harry Potter series to Casino Royale was yesterday accused of trading in endangered species.
Simon Wilson, 49, was arrested in March when officers swooped on a studio in Mayfair after he allegedly tried to sell a stuffed tiger, worth £50,000, to a client.
After a lengthy investigation by Scotland Yard's Wildlife Crime Unit, Mr Wilson was charged last week [Jul 2011] with storing the corpses of exotic animals in a freezer at his workshop at Game Farm, in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire.
They included a Himalayan black bear, an orangutan, a peregrine falcon, an Asian arowana fish, the skeleton of a mandrill monkey and a leopard skin as well as 11 rooks, two red-legged partridges, six pigeons, a black-headed gull and a chaffinch.
Mr Wilson, from Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, is further charged with falsifying documents relating to endangered animals and fraud.
His company, Animatronic Animals Ltd, has showcased its products in scores of blockbuster movies, among them Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, The Mummy, 101 Dalmatians, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and five Harry Potter films. The list also mentions TV soaps such as Emmerdale, Coronation Street and EastEnders. According to the firm's website it can stuff animals "in a certain position for your shoot" and "make the animal flexible so that changes can be made to the position on the shoot". It also offers stuffed animals that move on command, operated by remote control, adding: "We have a range of models and taxidermy in stock and can also create any animal from a Mouse to a full size T- Rex as a static model or a fully animatronic creation."
Mr Wilson yesterday [26 Jul 2011] appeared at City of Westminster magistrates' court. The district judge adjourned proceedings until September , when the committal hearing will take place.
Mr Wilson was arrested as part of the Metropolitan Police's Operation Charm, the London-wide crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade.
In other news, 5,000 chickens were killed in a fire at a farm in Devon in June:
Farm fire in Devon kills 5,000 chickens