The inaction of MAFF - a Viva! test case
In 1999, Viva! decided to do a test case - to see if any of the authorites would act to change the conditions at Newham farm, Sancreed, Cornwall. We had visited the farm on four occasions between April and June 1999 and complained to:
Ben Bradshaw, Farm Animal Welfare Minister, MAFF
Rachel Ewer, County Councillor - St Just, Cornwall County Council
Edwin Curnow, Animal Health Officer, Trading Standards, Cornwall County Council
Mrs R Mills, Environmental Health Officer, Penwith District Council
Mrs Jan Kelly, State Veterinary Service
Ms Joanna Fitzgerald, Health & Safety Executive
The following letter, along with video and photographic evidence was sent to Ben Bradshaw:
Farm Animal Welfare Minister
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
6 July 1999
Dear Ben Bradshaw
Re: Intensive Pig Farming
In many standard letters sent to the public regarding our Pig In Hell campaign, MAFF states that the UK has some of the strictest legislation in the EU ‘protecting the welfare of pigs’ and that the industry has taken steps to ensure ‘high welfare standards on farms by setting up quality assurance schemes’. Unfortunately, our work continues to show that MAFF’s statements are misleading and investigative evidence proves that UK pig farms are often a disgrace.
I have enclosed one example of a typical intensive pig farm - Newham Farm, nr Sancreed, Penzance. To set the record straight for our supporters and the public, please would you provide your views of this farm. Do you find the conditions generally acceptable?
Below, I have set out where we believe this particular farm is breaking the law and these points have been sent to the SVS. However, as members of the public contact yourself directly, and as MAFF has accused Viva! of painting an ‘unfair representation’ of Britain’s pig farms; please set out your views on the conditions at Newham Farm.
Newham Farm is, we believe, breaking the 1994 (2126) Animals - Prevention of Cruelty - The Welfare of Livestock Regulations and MAFF Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock - Pigs with regards to the welfare of the pigs on its premises. We are also concerned at the state of neglect on the farm in terms of hygiene, health and safety.
Viva! was given photographic, written and video evidence of Newham Farm taken on 20 April 1999 between 20.17 and 21.07 and 9 May 1999; we were so concerned that we investigated Newham Farm and gained further photographic, written and video evidence on 6 June 1999 between 5.30am and 6.58am.
In this letter we refer to footage taken at Newham Farm on:
20 April 1999 as Video 1
6 June 1999 as Video 2
9 May 1999 as Video 3
We are writing to request that MAFF follow up this evidence and prosecute the owner of Newham Farm and ensures that the conditions are considerably improved, or the unit closed.
The video evidence shows that the owner of Newham Farm is breaking the 1994 (2126) Animals - Prevention of Cruelty - The Welfare of Livestock Regulations in the following ways:
1. The law states that dust levels must be kept within limits which do not harm pigs. Investigators state and video footage shows that dust levels are extremely high - particularly in the first building shown on Video 2 where dust is clearly visible floating throughout the shed.
The law also states that gas concentrations must be kept within limits which do not harm pigs; however excreta is not regularly cleaned from pens and slatted dunging areas are often blocked, thus posing a hazard in terms of hygiene and welfare.
2. The law states that pigs must not be kept permanently in darkness. We are concerned that pigs in those buildings with no natural lighting are kept in permanent darkness. Video footage (building 1 in both video 1 and video 2 and building 2 in video 1) shows that these units are very dark during daylight hours.
3. Video 1 shows live parts of electrics to be exposed, posing a health and safety risk. An open fuse box is shown in this video and investigators witnessed loose hanging wires throughout the units.
4. Video 2 shows sick/injured animals housed with the main herd. By law, sick or injured pigs should be housed separately in comfortable conditions.
5. The law states that pigs should have a clean space in which to rest. Newham Farm clearly does not provide clean lying areas in many of the pens.
In video 1, building 2, no pigs were seen to have a clean lying area and all pens were filthy in the extreme. (Other examples are included in point 6 below.)
6. The 1994 Regulations state that housing pens, pens and equipment used for pigs must be properly cleansed and disinfected to prevent cross-infection and the build-up of disease-carrying organisms and faeces and urine must be removed as often as necessary to minimise smell and avoid attracting flies or rodents.
Newham Farm breaches these regulations in every building seen. In video 1 (building 2) the unit has a narrow gangway between pens. The gangway is several inches deep in water and dirt (footage shows the investigators feet sloshing around). The pens are also filthy: the floors are inches deep in urine and faeces and some are flooded with water. They contain no bedding material. Old bits of straw can be seen on the outside of pens but the straw has not been replaced and the pens not cleaned in several weeks or more. The walls and ceiling are unbelievably dirty and cobwebs cover every inch of space.
Video 2, building 1 also clearly shows that Newham Farm is breaking the law in terms of providing clean housing and lying areas. Footage shows that the ceiling is extremely filthy - hanging in dirt and cobwebs. Dust levels are very high. The concrete walls of the pens (housing groups of fattening pigs) are filthy. The pigs are covered in urine and faeces and not provided with any bedding material.
The weaners’ lying areas on the area below (area 1 of building 1) are also covered in dirt, faeces and urine. Their dunging area is blocked in most pens and so excreta is not draining away. These piglets are also given no straw or any other bedding.
The gangway on the upper floor (area 2 of building 1) is deep in grime.
In the pens with the open sow stalls (video 2, building 1, area 3), the pigs are on dirty concrete floors, with no bedding and covered in faeces.
Video 2 also shows a farrowing shed (building 3) with sows and piglets in farrowing crates. This building is also breaking these regulations. The building is filled with flies. The owner of Newham farm clearly does NOT cleanse housing or remove dead animals in time to avoid attracting flies and rodents. Footage in this building shows a dead rat - left for what appears several days. Investigators saw 10 or more live rats on entry into building 1 and several live rats in the yard on their visit on June 6. Other investigators saw several live rats on their visit on April 20. It also shows several dead piglets, one of which is black and others which have clearly been dead for days. A suckling sow is covered in flies as one of her dead - and now putrefying - offspring has not been removed from the crate she is in; living piglets are seen examining their dead sibling.
7. In this farrowing building, another sow is about to give birth. She is covered in faeces. The law states that sows placed in crates ‘shall be thoroughly cleaned.’ This is certainly not the case at Newham Farm.
8. The law also states that ‘gilts and sows between weaning their piglets and the perinatal period shall be provided with a clean, adequately drained, comfortable lying area and shall, if necessary, be given suitable nesting material.’ Newham Farm breaches these regulations. Video 2 clearly shows that sows in farrowing crates are not given comfortable lying areas - they are on concrete, surrounded by metal bars and given no bedding.
Video 2 (building 4) and video 1 (also of building 4) show that the lying area for mothers and piglets has become sodden in urine and faeces. Footage shows a mother lying - and covered - in excreta and another sow with her piglets sleeping next to her, all lying in a faeces and urine.
9. The law states: ‘Where pigs are kept in a building they shall be kept on, or have access at all times to, a lying area which is clean, comfortable and does not adversely affect them, and is well-drained or well maintained with dry bedding. Where bedding is provided, this must be clean, dry and not harmful to the pigs’.
Newham Farm breaks the law on all these points. All buildings filmed clearly demonstrate that no animals have clean lying areas; as already mentioned above, lying areas are usually filthy. Pens are not regularly cleaned and animals are often lying in their own excreta. Video 1, building 2 shows pigs in appalling conditions - there is no bedding; the pens are wet with water and excreta; lying areas are filthy; the pens are not well-drained or well-maintained. Video 2, building 1 also shows pens which are not well-drained with animals with excreta on them.
10. The Regulations state that all pigs must have access to straw or other material to satisfy behavioural needs. No fattening pens or farrowing crates contained straw or any other bedding on either the April or June visit. The only evidence of bedding having ever been provided were in the farrowing pens and some old, urine-soaked straw, in gangways. One empty farrowing pen had sawdust in it; however sows with piglets housed in such pens were not cleaned out. The sawdust had become completely sodden with urine and faeces and the animals covered in excreta (see videos 1 and 2, building 4).
11. The law states that boars must have clean resting areas. Lying areas must be dry and comfortable. Boars were kept in filthy pens with no dry lying areas and no bedding. Their pens were not well-drained or well maintained. (Video 1, building 2.)
12. The law states that piglets should be provided with a heat source if necessary. Piglets in the farrowing shed (video 2, building 3 with farrowing crates) appeared to have no working heat source when filmed. An old, broken lamp was seen by one crate.
Photographic evidence and video 3 shows uncovered carcasses which had been left for some weeks and months outside on Newham Farm, about 20 metres from a silo. The carcasses are completely exposed and wild and domestic animals and children can very easily reach them. Footage and photos show carcasses which have rotted to skeletons and some which are partially decomposed (one animal being approx. half bones, half flesh).
Complaints were made to Trading Standards in April 1999 and although carcasses were fully exposed in video 3, filmed on 9 May 1999, subsequently the carcasses were covered with earth. However, on 6 June 1999, carcasses were seen to be showing through the earth. (Rain had washed off the earth so that two of the carcasses were exposed.) Again, the owner of Newham Farm has breached the law (eg Dogs Act 1906) in not disposing of the carcasses properly. We are extremely concerned at the potential health hazard caused by the behaviour of the owner of Newham Farm.
We look forward to hearing from you shortly regarding what actions you take in answer to the above concerns.
Director - Viva!
Viva! backed up its evidence with a statement from an ex-MAFF vet with 27 years experience with pigs. He stated:
“The overall impression...is one of squalor, degradation, neglect, bad hygiene and bad animal welfare. The buildings appear to be dilapidated and unsafe; the surroundings are cluttered, unkempt, flood with surface water and unhygienic.”
The response from Ben Bradshaw was that the allegations were unfounded. None of the other authorities took action either, except for Trading Standards which stated in a letter to Viva!: ‘certain improvements have been made at Newham Farm. There are no plans, at present, to take more formal enforcement action.’
Ben Bradshaw tried to blame part of his department’s inaction on the fact that Viva! took one month to send all the evidence to MAFF.
Juliet Gellatley of Viva! replied: ‘I’m pleased to hear that your investigations are continuing but am concerned at your implication that because one month had lapsed between the last footage taken and your staff seeing it that conditions at Newham Farm had changed considerably. Many of the examples I pointed out in my letter of 6 July relate to long term neglect’.
Still MAFF took no action.
Newham Farm revisited
One year after our complaint to MAFF et al, Viva! revisited Newham Farm. Conditions were no better.
One sow held captive in a farrowing crate was - literally - smothered in flies and haemorrhaging badly from her vulva into the pen. The blood was caked on her hind quarters and newly-born piglets suckled alongside the large pool of blood. We immediately complained to Trading Standards Animal Health Officer but the outcome was ‘confidential’.
We saw a large bin filled with rotting dead piglets amid a sea of writhing maggots. In an an indoor shed piglets were in darkened, filthy and barren pens, devoid of bedding. They were heavily soiled with faeces. In one pen, two dead piglets had been left in with their living siblings. A large dead pig littered the gangway alongside a foraging rat.
MAFF says there is nothing wrong with Newham farm. Viva! hopes that by filming the units, the media and public will make up their own minds as to whether the law is satisfactory and whether MAFF is fit to enforce it. Or indeed whether factory farms should be banned.