Tonight, a team from EonA performed a random check at Rondeel in Wintelre during the catching of their spent hens. In the previous week, we tried to contact the director of Rondeel several times but were unsuccessful. Finally, we left him a voicemail message announcing our plan to visit. That we would not participate in the catching, as we had done the previous 3 years, but would just observe to make sure techniques were used as agreed upon between Rondeel and EonA.
We were greatly disappointed to witness the hens were caught using the old-fashioned and heavy-handed method (5 hens, upside down, in one hand) and roughly shoved into the crates.
After all, Rondeel had agreed to catch its hens following the EoA method (upright, with no more than 2 hens at a time) causing less stress and pain to the hens. We also noticed many dead chickens, in various stages of decomposition. This is a clear indicator that the farmer either does not visit the barn daily or just leaves the dead animals lying around, which in both cases shows poor management. The director of Rondeel was not present this evening due to illness and initially, we could not locate the farmer either. Eventually, we found him in the breakroom and expressed our disappointment to him. The farmer denied us further access to the barn and barely spoke to us. Next, he accompanied us to the owner of the Rondeel company where she then informed us that she and the director wanted us to leave their premises: we were not welcome tonight. According to the head of the catching team, they were following the orders of the director.
We reached out to the director and the next day he told us he had given clear instructions to catch the chickens upright as much as possible while paying attention to animal welfare, as always. He had also given instructions not to let anyone in, including Eyes on Animals, because of Covid-19. If that was really the case, why did he not let us know after we had contacted him numerous times? Especially since we have worked with Rondeel for 3 years using the upright method during catching? And why were we the only ones wearing a face mask?
Unfortunately, the farmer and catching crew took advantage of the lack of supervision. The catching team has admitted to have acted incorrectly.
The director of Rondeel has spoken with them and was present the next evening when the rest of the hens were caught. He informed EonA that these birds were caught upright as much as possible.
Eyes on Animals is very disappointed with the lack of incentive of both farmer and catching crew and the suddenly rude position of Rondeel towards EonA. We prefer to be able to rely on the teams which are trained to catch chickens upright. Afterall, Rondeel was the first company to switch to this upright catching method and we felt we had an open and good working relationship.
Even though our confidence has been tarnished: we will continue to talk with Rondeel and hope that this was a one-time incident.