Bernard Matthews answers critics

Bernard Matthews has hit back at allegations about employee practices at its Haveringland plant.

Bernard Matthews has hit back at allegations that there was a culture of peer pressure that led two workers to abuse turkeys at its plant in Haveringland, Norfolk.

Daniel Palmer, 27, and Neil Allen, 30, both from Dereham were ordered by magistrates to do 200 hours community service after they were convicted for causing unnecessary suffering to three turkeys. The pair were caught by an undercover investigator from Hillside Animal Sanctuary having been filmed playing baseball with the turkeys using a pole designed for rounding the birds up.

In a full-page advert in today's Eastern Daily Press, Bernard Matthews disputes the claims, made by Simon Nicholls, the solicitor defending two men who admitted hitting the turkeys, that conditions at the plant were "appalling" and the men had acted because "the one thing you couldn't do was step outside what everyone else was doing."

"Everyone here knows that is not true," reads the statement, "but, regrettably the Company was not requested to be in court to refute these allegations.

"Many recognise that there is a small minority of individuals who are determined, by whatever means possible, to discredit the production of livestock for human consumption. Clearly it is in their interest to paint a biased picture of production techniques."

According to a spokesman, the "small minority" includes not only Nicholls, but the cameraman from Hillside Animal Sanctuary and "other groups who we won't name, because we don't want to give them the publicity."

The statement comes more than a week after the community sentence was imposed, a delay which has been put down to the seriousness of the allegations. "We didn't want to be seen responding with a knee-jerk reaction. The whole thing has upset us greatly," said the spokesman.

The statement in Bernard Matthews's advert is strongly worded, and says the men, who were employed by a sub-contractor, should have been sent to prison. "Bernard Matthews Limited feels very strongly that the community sentence imposed was derisory and, given the circumstances, feels a custodial sentence was far more appropriate."

The company employs around 4,000 people across East Anglia and said it maintains high standards of animal welfare. "In support of all our agricultural staff and employees across East Anglia, we completely refute the allegations made.

"We will not and do not tolerate cruelty to any of our turkeys."

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