Factory farming isn’t just legal; it is sanctioned and protected by our Government and the meat industry itself. Intensive farming operates on the principle of saving money by cutting corners and cramming as many animals into the smallest amount of space possible. This is how meat is kept cheap.
Trapping mothering sows in crates so small she can’t even turn around for five weeks at a time is legal. It is also something that around 70 per cent of British sows endure around twice a year (for a week before she gives birth and around four weeks afterwards). It shouldn’t be confused with the sow stall (an almost identical crate where a sow is kept throughout her pregnancy), which was banned in Britain in 1999.
The natural instincts of pigs are cruelly ignored on Britain’s factory farms. Although guidelines suggest that they should be given manipulable materials (such as straw or peat) to satisfy rooting behaviours, farmers only have to include a chain or a football in otherwise barren conditions to satisfy the word of British law.
Pigs are highly intelligent animals yet are driven to abnormal behaviours, such as tail biting other pigs, by boredom from the unnatural conditions they are kept in. The industry’s answer is to cut off their tails to try and prevent the very behaviour they created (tail biting problems are almost unheard of in the wild). Many piglets also have their back teeth cut out with pliers in an attempt to stop injuries to a mothering sow’s teats. However, again this is only because she is unable get away from her piglets because she is held in the farrowing crate. Although the Government claims that piglet mutilations are not routine in Britain, 80 per cent of British piglets are mutilated each year – and most without any pain relief. We have filmed it happening on British farms. These mutilations involve handling stress, immediate and in some cases long lasting pain.
One of the owners of Poplar Farm (where we filmed piglets in battery cages) even boasted that they had been given the all clear, saying that they had been visited by a government vet, local authority officials and an assurance assessor. She said: “Everything was found to comply with legislation.” In other words, keeping piglets in cages in Britain is cruel and unusual, but seemingly breaks no laws. So much for legal protection.