Intensive farms make an ideal breeding ground for bugs.
Antibiotics are used in farmed animals for three reasons:
to promote growth, to treat disease (therapeutic use) and
to prevent disease (prophylactic use.)
In-feed antibiotics tylosin phosphate, virginiamycin, zinc
bacitracin and spiramycin were banned in the EU after June
1999, followed by carbadox and oliquindox (60). A total of
7 out of 11 antibiotic growth promoters have been banned in
However, spiramycin and tylosin phosphate continue to be used
for disease prevention (not as growth promoters). Avalymycin
continues to be used as a growth promoter, and may be causing
resistant VRE (vancomycin resistant enterococci). Use of lincomycin
(cross resistant with clindamycin) in pigs is increasing.
There are detailed reports on why antibiotic use in farmed
animals is causing a threat to human health (61, 62, 63, 74,
65). Farm use of antibiotics have caused antibiotic resistance
to medical drugs in 3 types of food poisoning (salmonella,
campylobacter and E coli) and drugs of last resort for treating
two strains of the hospital superbug, VRE, which infects wounds
and incisions. (70)
Resistance in the food poisoning bacteria has come mainly
from using antibiotics routinely to prevent disease. In the
case of VRE, resistance has come from using growth promoting
antibiotics in farmed animals.
In simple terms, antibiotics have been massively overused
by farmers. This has led to bacteria becoming resistant to
the drugs so that when the same drugs are used to treat humans,
they no longer work.
Although 7 growth promoting antibiotics have been banned,
4 are still in use and others are used to treat and prevent
disease. Writers for Pig Farming magazine are against the
banning of antibiotics; they say that it will result in increased
therapeutic use of drugs (which is true and a reason why factory
farming itself has to end).
MAFF state that antibiotics are used more in indoor systems
than outdoor (62). Pigs reared in indoor, intensive systems
will receive drug treatment throughout their life until slaughter
- usually at under 5 to 6 months old. In healthier pig herds
antibiotic use may be restricted to injections and growth
promoter use. However, in most conventional herds water and
feed medication is also practiced.
Diseases and the drugs used
MAFF state (62) that:
Treatment may be given to sows for metritis, mastitis and
for diseases such as erysipelas and leptospirosis. In most
indoor herds antibiotic treatment starts soon after birth.
Piglets will receive drugs for enteritis and for respiratory
disease. From weaning (usually 3 weeks) all piglets are gathered,
mixed and then reared to finishing weights. Weaners usually
develop post weaning diarrhoea caused by E. coli which occurs
on day 3 post weaning.
Post-weaning diarrhoea is quickly followed by a range of other
diseases. Glassers Disease (haemophilus parasuis) occurs at
4 weeks, pleuropneumonia at 6-8 weeks, proliferative enteropathy
from 6 weeks and spirochaetal diarrhoea and colitis at any
time from 6 weeks onwards (MAFF 1998).
At 8 weeks the pigs are termed growers and moved to another
house. Here they will develop enzootic pneumonia, streptococcal
meningitis (Streptococcus suis) and, possibly, swine dysentery.
Respiratory disease may cause problems until slaughter (MAFF,
Quite an indictment of factory farming!
Use of antibiotics varies from unit to unit. In a survey of
pig farms in 1995, farms were found which used only penicillin
and streptomycin and, perhaps, tetracycline for wounds. These
herds were free of most of the diseases requiring treatment.
Other herds were infected with a range of diseases and had
been prescribed up to 10 antimicrobials (MAFF, 1998) (62).
In a typical herd there is use of neomycin, apramycin, amoxyclav,
ampicillin, enrofloxacin or trimethroprim sulphonamide in
the diarrhoeic piglets for E coli enteritis (MAFF, 1998).
From weaning pigs will receive feed medicated with a growth
promoter. Avilamycin is commonly used. Copper at 175 ppm will
be present in all rations. At weaning pigs will receive medication
to treat the post weaning E. coli diarrhoea and any Oedema
(swelling) disease which may be present.
In 50% of herds the feed is medicated with zinc oxide at 3000
ppm to prevent this and is usually given for two weeks in
the feed (MAFF, 1998) (62).
From two weeks after weaning pig feed may contain antibiotics
to treat infection with H parasuis, A pleuropneumoniae, S
suis (causes meningitis), L intrecellularis. This feed usually
contains a tetracycline and is often a combination of chloretetracycline,
sulphadimidine and penicillin (MAFF, 1998). The MAFF review
adds 'it is important to realise that although each pig may
receive a treatment course of a week at most, medication on
the farm is continuous, as new pigs inter that age group every
Major problems with pig farms are the amount of antimicrobials
used, the use of tylosin in the farm which results in the
presence of Campylobacter resistant to tylosin at slaughter
and the contribution made to antibiotic resistance...
In evidence to the House of Lords select committee, Peter
Watson, NOAH chairman of technical affairs and registration
and development manager with drug company Bayer, said it was
'two days after you wean the pigs they will develop diarrhoea,
and some will become very ill. You include a therapeutic drug
over that period to prevent that happening and that is what
we understand as prophylaxis (1998, Evidence, p.208).
The main use of antimicrobials against streptococci in farm
animals is for the treatment and control of S. suis (causes
meningitis) infection in pigs. Most isolates of S. suis are
extremely sensitive to penicillin but resistance has been
identified. Treatment is by using penicillin in feed or water.
Recently, amoxycillin or amoxyclav have taken over this role
Mycloplasma treatment is particularly frequent in the pig
(M. hypneumoniae) and is the reason for the use of significant
amounts of antimicrobial (MAFF, 1998). Mycoplasma is an infective
agent distinct from bacteria and viruses. The products used
eg: tetracyclines, tylosin, tiamulin, lincomycin. Resistance
has been identified to all these microbials (MAFF, 1998).
Copper sulphate is often added to the diet which increases
growth rate (EU Directives limit the inclusion to 175 ppm
for pigs up to 17 weeks, 100ppm for 17 weeks to 6 months,
and 35ppm for pigs over 6 mths and breeding stock). Nitrovin
is another non-antibiotic growth promoter which is used in
the feed (but not with antibiotics). All substances have withdrawal
periods before slaughter to avoid residues in the carcass.
Although it is admitted that:
"Drug safety is checked by licensing authorities but there
is room for misuse, abuse or carelessness of use". (1)
The Pig Industry
Despite £30 billion being poured into European agriculture
every year, the industry is in crisis - not least pig farming.
Farming accounts for less than 2% of the EU's output (GDP)
and yet it attracts this incredible subsidy. Without it, red
meat would be so expensive that consumption would collapse;
even with it, the industry is staggering. This monumental
sum is topped up even further by our Government with special
payments to 'needy' cases.
In September 1998 the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC)
also joined in and gave an additional £3million to the
battered pig industry to help it market its products and stave
off collapse. By February 1999, Farming News announced that
despite this, the market for pig meat had again collapsed
to an all time low. According to the MLC, losses for the nine
months to January 1999 topped £150 million.
Why the crisis?
Farmers are not short of reasons. They blame a strong pound,
which cuts the cost of imports and encourages retailers to
buy foreign. Some say there's an oversupply of pig meat, which
is driving down prices. Others claim UK farmers face increased
costs for getting rid of sow stalls, because of the banning
of bonemeal in pig feed and for joining quality assurance
Supermarket chains, however, deny they're buying more from
abroad. Eg Tesco is claiming that all their fresh pork is
British as is 60 per cent of their own brand bacon. Marks
& Spencer say they sell only UK fresh pork and sausages
and refuse to buy any meat from animals kept in stalls and
tethers, wherever it comes from.
The whining of UK farmers has got up the nose of Europe and
its producers are hitting back. The Danish Bacon & Meat
Council claims it has also been a victim of low prices and
faces costs not incurred by UK producers. They cite £8
million a year to control salmonella, increased costs following
a ban on antibiotic growth promoters in `finishing' pigs and
the cost of dealing with slurry. (17)
The constant cry of UK pig farmers is, of course, that they
have the `best welfare standards in the world' and this is
costing them dear. They're now attempting to save their bacon
by launching consumer campaigns with the message that pigs
are in paradise on Britain's factory farms.
In 2000, the Meat & Livestock Commission and the Government
jointly funded a £4.6 million ad campaign to promote
British pig meat. Almost every daily newspaper in the country
carried the ads, urging consumers to buy British pork with
the slogan Look after the farmers who look after their
Three out of four of the ads were judged misleading by the
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), following a complaint
Viva! stated that both pictures and copy presented a misleading
picture of pig production in Britains pig farms. The
ASA upheld our complaint saying: ... the three challenged
advertisements misleadingly implied that pigs reared under
the scheme led a more free life than they did. The MLC
was asked to withdraw them and to take greater care not to
mislead in future.
The ASA found that consumers reading the ads would be unaware
that most pigs were not kept outdoors, that most pigs are
intensively farmed and that, despite the ads claims
of good living conditions, they could consider the size of
pig stalls to be tiny.
It is particularly distasteful that the government used taxpayers
money to fund ads that deliberately set out to deceive the
It is almost impossible to understand how livestock farming
(not market gardening, however) has managed to secure such
preferential treatment when it is so damaging - to health,
the environment and animals. Whole industries have been devastated
in the name of axing subsidies, particularly mining, steel
and ship building - but not livestock farming and the intensively
We all should be aware that this industry has powerful and
influential supporters who will fight to the bitter end to
preserve their right to untold amounts of public money. Even
at the mention of reform, French farmers descend on Paris
and cause havoc.
Even victories have to be treated with caution. The announcement
that 7 antibiotics have been withdrawn from farm use has a
double edge. It may mean that remaining antibiotics will be
used more liberally. Viva! argues that instead we must alter
the conditions so that this appalling chemical cocktail is
no longer required.
The crisis facing animal farming is not short term but a sign
of increasing problems. Viva!s answer is to end intensive
farming and to encourage the public to stop eating animals.
And what's the industrys answer? Paul Blanchard, manager
of the Meat and Livestock Commission's Stotfold Pig Development
Unit has no doubt. The pig industry must:
"optimise genetic potential from our stock at the lowest cost
of production possible". He continues:
"The UK industry is, on average, achieving only two thirds
of the genetic potential of pigs. Exploiting more of this
potential is a challenge we must meet to survive in business."
In other words the industry wants to continue down the road
of industrialisation; manipulating animals to make them grow
larger, with low fat, in the shortest possible time.
Genetic engineering - the industrys answer
Pig Farming magazine states the health of the future industry
lies in welfare, marketing, the genetic revolution and
the need to lower costs and increase efficiency.
In Pig Farming, April 1999, John Webb, geneticist at Cotswold
Pig Development Company is sure that genetic engineering will
shape the future of the pig industry. He states that the genetic
revolution has brought frozen embryos, allowing scientists
to move genes around without risk, cloning, sex determination,
in-vitro meiosis, selecting and cloning embryos.
He says: Technology also provides the key to insert
genes that would help improve pig meat quality, cause faster
growth and ensure healthier pigs. He states that using
a Meishan sow, scientists could add a growth development factor
to increase litter size, a gene to provide a better carcase,
a gene to determine sex to ensure more efficient males
and eliminate boar taint by removing genes responsible for
skatole and andriosterone, so producing 36 top
quality piglets per sow per year.
That modern pig could then be cloned to provide producers
with a regular income. (9)
Pig Meat Standard
More than 95% of pigs kept for meat and 70% of breeding sows
are factory farmed. And yet much vaunted assurance schemes
have been developed to entice the consumer to buy British
reared pig meat. The certification marks are supposed to guarantee
higher welfare, hygiene etc. standards. Do they? Or are consumers
RSPCA Freedom Foods
The word Freedom in Freedom Foods does not guarantee
that the meat came from animals that were free range. In fact,
much of the pig meat approved by the RSPCA comes from animals
kept in indoor intensive systems.
This, not surprisingly, comes as a shock to those consumers
who trust the RSPCA to only approve of non-intensive production.
In fact the RSPCAs standards are almost identical to
those of the meat industry - FABPigs/Meat and Livestock Commission/MAFF
ie those who support factory farming. As the RSPCA Freedom
Food does not offer markedly higher standards of welfare than
the industrys own schemes, the question must be - why
have the RSPCA launched Freedom Food at all?
Viva!s position is that the word Freedom
should not be used at all in the RSPCAs trade mark for
food as it misleads the public into believing the animals
killed for the products were free range, or at least from
less intensive conditions than which this welfare charity
Further, the RSPCA has not improved conditions for pigs in
general at all. Instead the Freedom Food scheme approves of
the status quo, with standards being no better than those
proposed by the NFU, MLC or MAFF! Viva! believes the public
and the animals deserve better.
Some examples of the RSPCA standards from their document RSPCA
Welfare Standards for Pigs; Freedom Food (43) illustrate the
RSPCA: Piglets must not be weaned from the sow before
3 weeks of age.
Viva! comment: The scheme approves farms which wean at 3 weeks.
Naturally piglets would be weaned at 12 weeks and parting
them from their mother this early makes them extremely vulnerable
to disease; leads to overuse of antibiotics and other medicines;
and causes trauma to both mother and piglets. Presumably the
RSPCA chose 3 weeks because this is when most intensive systems
currently wean piglets (so that they can make the sow pregnant
again as soon as possible in order to produce more piglets
The RSPCA even admit that The earlier the weaning age...the
greater the chance of them suffering from welfare problems,
but rather than stipulating that farmers must wean later,
they say: therefore a more careful system is required
with respect to management...
RSPCA: on lying areas for pigs... It must be a sufficient
size to accommodate all pigs together lying on their sides.
Viva! comment: The RSPCA approves of farms that give sufficient
space to allow pigs to lie down at the same time and no more...barely
overcrowded at all!
RSPCA: on space allowances... Pigs must always be provided
with a total floor space no less than 1.5 times the lying
The minimum bedded space for growing pigs is as follows:
Live weight (kg)
Lying area (m2)
Total area (m2)
Viva! comment: In our view this means that the RSPCA approves
of overcrowded (not illegal) conditions. In essence, pigs have
enough space to lie down and a fraction more for their life.
It recommends that an adult sow should be given at least 3.5m2.
These standards are the same as the industrys and are
the minimum requirements by law! You couldnt get further
from freedom for these animals.
RSPCA: The pig must be free to turn around without difficulty
at all times. The dimension of any stall or pen must be such
that the internal area is not less than the square of the length
of the pig and no internal size is less than 75% of the length
of the pig.
Viva! comment: These requirements are the minimum standards
required by MAFF and are the same as those for the industrys
FabPigs scheme for dry sows (breeding females who are not suckling).
So the pig must be kept in an area which is at least as big
as the pigs length on all sides. This space is the equivalent
of giving a 5 10 man a room measuring 510
on all sides. Not welfare friendly and certainly not what freedom
RSPCA: The use of farrowing crates is contrary to the
principles of Freedom Food Standards however they allow
them anyway. Sows must not be kept in farrowing crates
for more than 28 days after farrowing. (1998 standards)
In the revised Freedom Food standards (June 2000) the RSPCA
allow existing scheme members to continue using the farrowing
crate until 2005, new applicants must give mother sows the freedom
to turn around when her piglets are five days old.
Viva! comment: The RSPCA are deeply compromised. As an animal
welfare organisation the meat industry's commercial considerations
should not be what drives their standards. However, this is
exactly what has happened. In an effort to work with intensive
producers, the RSPCA have sacrificed pigs welfare.
Any member of the public who cares about the way farm animals
are treated would be disgusted to discover that the RSPCA ever
approved of farrowing crates in its Freedom Foods scheme. It
is a welcome move that they are being phased out - perhaps Viva!s
pressure on the RSPCA helped bring about this change? Finally,
it is disappointing that the RSPCA will allow sows about to
give birth to be crated. This is an active time for the sow
when she would naturally walk for miles and build a nest. Crating
her is extremely cruel.
RSPCA: Tail docking is against the principles of Freedom
Food standards. However, at the present time it is accepted
that it may be necessary, to alleviate pain and suffering caused
by tail biting. As soon as enough information is available regarding
husbandry methods which prevent tail biting outbreaks, the practice
of tail docking for preventative reasons will not be permitted
within the Freedom Food scheme.
Viva! comment: Again the RSPCA compromises welfare principles
in order to support a common intensive farming practice. It
is misleading to state that not enough information is available
on how to stop tail biting. Detailed and numerous studies have
shown that tail biting is caused by bad management eg overcrowding,
no straw and early weaning. (See Factory farming causes tail
The RSPCA, instead of allowing cruel procedures that are against
their principles, should set much higher welfare standards which
would eliminate tail-biting and therefore the need
to tail dock.
The RSPCA also approves of units which never allow a pig to
see or feel sunlight; to be able to run and play; to explore
the natural world. They permit teeth clipping, a transport time
up to 8 hours; and of withdrawing food for up to 18 hours before
The British Meat Quality Standard Mark
The British Meat Quality Standard Mark for pigmeat was launched
in January 1999 - backed by the governments agriculture
minister Nick Brown. The BPISG chairman Stewart Houston said:
The new Mark recognises the vital importance of identifying
British pigmeat and differentiates the superior British specification
from most imported pigmeat.
The Mark was introduced by the Meat and Livestock Commission
(MLC) whose remit it is to promote red meat. By 2000 they had
spent £2.5 million on a campaign promoting the Mark to
retailers and consumers that pigmeat products with this badge
have reached high welfare standards, production, processing
Jim Macaulay, chairman of the MLCs Pork and Bacon Promotion
We are confident it will deliver what the consumer wants
across key issues of food safety, quality assurance and animal
Pigmeat sold using the Quality Standard logo must be produced
from UK pig farms approved by either FAB(Farm Assured British)Pigs,
the Malton code or Scottish Pig Industry Initiative quality
The Farm Assured British Pigs Scheme (FABPigs)
FABPigs launched in September 1996. Coverage of the scheme
has reached around 70% of the kill. Alongside farm membership,
abattoir membership of the British Quality Assured Pork is rising
rapidly and most British abattoirs require FABPigs membership
of their suppliers said Rob Gready, Scheme Manager (21).
FABPigs is owned by the National Farmers Union; The British
Pig Association; Federation of Fresh Meat wholesalers and British
Meat and Manufacturers Association.
The only pigs shown in a photo in the main promotional leaflet
is that of, surprise surprise, free range animals! However,
as with the RSPCA and other industry schemes it mainly approves
indoor intensive units
Some examples of FABPigs standards (from Products Certification
Scheme for Farm Assured British Pigs) are:
Tooth clipping of newly born piglets is acceptable.
Tail docking is allowed (but must be reviewed by farmer and
vet quarterly and a vet must be present and it must be done
to piglets less than 48 hrs old)
FABPigs base their space requirements for intensively produced
pigs on that of the minimum requirements demanded by law (Welfare
of Livestock Regulations (1994)) - in other words, as with the
RSPCA, the scheme does not guarantee high welfare. It guarantees
implementing a weak, ineffective law which states that pigs
should have space to turn around; lie down at the same time
and have a dry lying area. And - as with the RSPCA - thats
more or less it!
A growing (fattening pig) requires the minimum of:
Live weight (kg)
Total area (m2)
A breeding sow or gilt should have a minimum of 1.5m2.
And for dry sows (non-suckling breeding females): The
dimension of any stall or pen must be such that the internal
area is not less than the square of the length of the pig and
no internal side is less than 75% of the length of the pig.
So the human equivalent of a growing pig - keeping a 10 stone
human in an area of less than 0.5m2.
And for farrowing pigs:
Farrowing crates are permitted for 28 days after giving birth
and piglets may be weaned at 3 weeks.
No mention is made of provision of bedding materials for indoor
pigs (yet outdoor pigs must be well bedded).
No mention is made of having to provide pigs with straw (or
any other material) to allow for expression of natural behaviour
such as rooting, chewing and so on.
In summary the RSPCA, FABpigs and MLCs British Meat Quality
Standard schemes are very similar and state the following ;
Withdraw drugs before slaughter in accordance with the
Treat sick animals
Provide separate pens for ill and injured animals
Monitor tail, ear, flank biting and fighting and produce
an action plan to stop it
Dispose of casualty pig carcases promptly through a registered
outlet or by burying or burning on farm
Clean the establishment
Keep pigs in stable groups
Mark pigs for ID
Inspect growing pigs once a day
Allow tooth clipping and tail docking within 48 hours of
Allow nose ringing (not the RSPCA)
Provide flooring which is washable and does not cause injury
Provide artificial light to indoor pigs for equivalent
of daylight hours
Provide space for the pigs to turn around and lie down
at the same time (but no more is necessary)
Keep breeding boars (huge animals) in pens of at least
10m2 for their life
Keep breeding sows in a space which is not less than their
square length (so they can just turn around)
Allow farrowing crates for 28 days after birth (RSPCA phasing
to 5 days)
Allow weaning at 3 weeks (naturally would be 12)
Provide food each day on a wholesome diet
Provide fresh water each day
Transport time up to 8 hours
Unfortunately, the British Meat Quality Standard Mark was
awarded to at least one of the farms that Viva! filmed. The
establishment was anything but clean and pigs were covered
in faeces, had no bedding and some were in permanent darkness.
The Malton Code
The Malton Code is approved by the MLCs British Meat
Quality Standard scheme. It is a code produced by Malton Foods,
part of Unigate plc, a food manufacturing group operating
in the UK and Continental Europe. Malton Foods describes itself
as a "complete pigmeat processing business producing a wide
range of added-value pork, bacon and ham products and other
cooked meats." It slaughters pigs, turns them into bacon and
so on and packages. Malton Foods is one of the largest pigmeat
producers in Britain and therefore developed its own code
for its 2000 suppliers.
Again, the Code bases itself on the FAWCs Five Freedoms and
MAFF's Code of recommendation for welfare of Livestock - Pigs.
Tail docking is permitted within 24 hours of birth, no
vet has to be present. Tooth clipping is permitted also
within 24 hrs of birth.
No sharp wedges must be pigs pens
Slatted floors are allowed. Flooring must be well drained
with dry bedding and a dry lying area at all times.
Stock must not be kept in darkness and have light for 8
hrs min per day at 50 lux.
Sick pigs to be separated in hospital pens
In transport/moving, goads, sticks and pipes not allowed.
Slurry and waste to be disposed of so as not to be a health
or pest hazard
Carcases must be disposed of promptly and not available
to 'vermin, wild birds or domestic animals'.
Malton follows MAFF and so requires the same as FABPigs
A growing (fattening pig) requites the minimum of:
Live weight (kg)
Total area (m2)
And, as with the RSPCA and FABPigs, dry sows are allowed 1.5sq.m.
to lie in
Farrowing crates are permitted - not to keep sows in more than
7 days before birth and 28 days after, unless weaned late and
then 35 days. Piglets to have source of heat and dry lying area
Boars can be kept isolated in a space of 6 sq.m. for their whole
Adequate water to be available
Effective ventilation and no draughts
Keep temperature comfortable
Fed daily and trough space in restrict feed systems must allow
pigs to feed at same time
Swill may not be fed. But industrial food waste (non-meat) may
Feed storage tidy and clean.
Growth promoting antibiotics allowed, except in sow feed.
Environmental enrichment is none mandatory and no ideas are
Can be kept without food up to 18 hrs before slaughter, journey
time up to 8 hrs
Analyse all the above schemes and it is soon apparent that they
basically state standards which allow pigs to live and grow
to be killed as quickly as possible in the smallest space possible
with very little or no provision made for the basics which make
life worth living. They are in close confinement their whole
lives and cant exercise or express normal behaviour. These
animals have active, inquisitive and intelligent minds and yet
they are given nothing. Even the mothers have their piglets
taken from them at 3 weeks, only to be made pregnant five days
later until she is killed for low grade meat.
The only organisation to set markedly higher standards for animal
welfare is the Soil Association.
The Soil Association Standards for Organic Food and Farming
The scheme does not guarantee that pigs are free range, although
it actively encourages outdoor farming. For indoor pigs this
is the only scheme which states that for both breeding and fattening
pigs there must be:
Ample dry bedding with plentiful natural ventilation and
Access to an outside run with a dunging, rooting and exercise
area, and a rubbing post and implements for play.
It is also the only scheme which completely prohibits the use
of farrowing crates and the weaning of piglets at under six
weeks (the RSPCA allows weaning at three weeks).
The Soil Association also prohibits:
Antibiotics, copper diet supplements and probiotics for
growth promotion and:
Routine teeth cutting
The prophylactic use of iron injections
The purchase of animals from livestock markets
The purchase of stock that have been produced using transgenic
or other genetic engineering techniques