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.

Defence barrister Jeremy Barton said the farmer had suffered financially following the closure of the slaughter business and was in poor health, having suffered a heart attack.

Sentence was adjourned until 29 June.

See more