Animal rights activists make serious allegations against Lidl. A supplier to the discounter apparently keeps chickens under catastrophic conditions and overbreeds the animals. Lidl customers get their meat when they buy several private labels.

Filthy chickens with bulging bellies are crawling around on the ground and can hardly stand on their feet. Crowded together in a very small space, the animals stumble over each other.

Again and again, dying and dead animals can be seen lying on the ground like rubbish. The recordings are from the summer of 2022 and were secretly shot by animal rights activists in the yard of a company that supplies Lidl, among others.

The chicken meat is therefore in some of the discounter’s own brands. The animal welfare organization Albert Schweitzer Foundation has made the recordings available online to FOCUS. FOCUS online considers the recordings to be authentic.

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The allegations against Lidl and its suppliers weigh heavily. The undercover videos show “how broilers not only suffer from the conditions in which they are kept, but also from the consequences of the extreme growth they breed,” according to a press release from the Albert Schweitzer Foundation.

And indeed. The footage shows chickens shaking as they stand, until their legs eventually give out. Another clip apparently shows a farm worker wading through thousands of animals crowded together. Dead chickens are also taken away.

“The recordings from the Lidl supplier companies show clear violations of paragraph 2 of the Animal Welfare Act, which stipulates appropriate care and behavior-appropriate housing for the animals,” explained Kathrin Herrmann, European veterinarian for animal welfare, of the Albert Schweitzer Foundation.

The organization is therefore asking Lidl to act. The discounter chain should “take responsibility for the conditions at its suppliers” and “tackle the biggest problems of chicken fattening, especially the torturous breeding,” read the statement from the Albert Schweitzer Foundation.

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Mahi Klosterhalfen, the organization’s president, says: “Lidl’s ‘Barn Plus’ chicken meat comes from torture chickens from desolate mass stalls. The research proves that. Is that what Lidl sees in terms of ‘quality’ and ‘animal welfare’?”. The group should finally implement the minimum standards of the European Chicken Initiative for all chickens.

This is a project launched by 30 European animal welfare organizations. German members include the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, the German Animal Welfare Association, Four Paws, Provieh and People for Animal Rights.

Companies participating in the European Broiler Chicken Initiative pledge to only use chicken meat products from improved husbandry by 2026. Criteria for this include that up to 20 animals per square meter may be kept and that there is daylight in all the stalls.

Companies like Danone, Dr. Oetker, Frosta and Iglo have already joined the project. Aldi, Lidl’s big rival, also announced in November 2020 that it would take part in the initiative. With the current pictures, the pressure on Lidl is growing.

The “London Times” also reports on the miserable conditions at the group’s poultry supplier. Because the British animal protection organization “Humans League UK” also received the video material and complained of “terrible mistreatment” of the chickens.

The “London Times” confronted Lidl Germany with the allegations. The group does not deny the allegations and said it was “decidedly against animal cruelty”. The allegations are taken very seriously, the conditions described are “unacceptable”.

The company’s statement goes on: “We are therefore already in contact with our supplier, who supplies other market participants in Germany in addition to us.” Everything is now being done to check the allegations made by the animal welfare organizations.

But what does the supplier say about the allegations? Species-appropriate husbandry is important to the company, at least that’s what its website suggests. There’s even an article explaining how committed the company is to animal welfare compliance.

The company defended this position when asked by FOCUS online. In a written statement, those responsible emphasize that animal welfare violations “are in no way acceptable to us”. The Lidl supplier also distances himself from the allegations that have now been made.

All fatteners who deliver to the farm are economically and legally independent farmers. Compliance with animal welfare is the responsibility of the farmer. The supplying farmers are regularly checked “by independent, external auditors as part of the QS recognition”.

“Specifically, for example, proof of competence for handling broilers, specifications for animal control – including stock control -, general husbandry requirements and the competent handling of sick and injured animals are required.”

The company would also resort to external, independent certifications. At the end of the statement it says: “We currently have no indication that one of our contract fatteners has violated animal welfare.”