Viva! filmed 18 pig farms (video available from Viva!) in the following 11 counties:
Cornwall, Devon, E Sussex, Humberside, Kent, Merseyside, Northants, Oxon, Somerset, Suffolk, Worcs
None of the units shown were specially chosen to show poor animal welfare standards. They were selected simply because we were able to walk inside without forcing entry and film them. There is nothing exceptional about these farms and they fairly reflect standards throughout the industry as a whole. That must be so because the complaints Viva! has registered against several of them with various Government departments have all been dismissed. Much of what you see in this footage is legal (though in Viva!’s opinion, not all). The recommendations governing farm animal welfare are so loosely drawn that it would be difficult to break the law! However, legal or not, we believe that what is shown in this footage is widespread, institutionalised animal cruelty.
The pig industry divides pigs into breeding stock and fattening stock. The fattening stock are reared for meat. In the region of 99% of all UK fattening pigs are industrially farmed.Therefore, almost all of the pig meat on sale is a product of intensive, factory farming. The amount of free range meat is so small that the Meat and Livestock Commission cannot provide figures for it. The animals which are reared outdoors are almost exclusively breeding sows - about 30 per cent of all breeding sows (however, their piglets are taken to factory farms). The remaining 70 per cent are reared indoors in severely restricted intensive units.
Most indoor sows are forced to give birth in farrowing crates - metal-barred contraptions which hold them captive for up to 28 days at a time, preventing them from even turning around. The frustration caused by these cruel devices can lead to the mental collapse of highly intelligent animals.
Almost all piglets are removed from their mothers at just three weeks old - before they can digest solid foods - and are reared in indoor, intensive units where they live until slaughter at five or six months old. They are given drugs throughout most of their life.
This is the true face of pig farming in the UK today and the scenes in this video have to be set against the rhetoric of the farming and meat industries - and that of the Government itself.
The video opens with scenes of how pigs would naturally live - if they had the opportunity. They have highly developed senses of smell, touch and taste. They see in colour, dream and can walk as much as 15 kilometres in a day. Play is essential to their development.
Unit 1 - Rynehill Farm, Kingham, Oxon.
Scene 1. Is of ‘grower’ pigs in a concrete enclosure. They have a covered, indoor sleeping area and a wooden-slatted, outdoor dunging area with swill troughs. The pigs are wet and covered from head to toe in filth - their own excreta. Excreta has pooled on the slats and the sleeping area is concrete, devoid of all bedding and also wet with excreta.
Scene 2. This shows an entirely indoor pen of what appears to be ‘fattening’ pigs. There is little daylight (although it is sunny outside), no sign of bedding and the space appears to be filthy and so restricted that the animals have enough room to lie down but little else. There is no environmental enrichment, no straw, no outdoor access and nothing to do.
Scene 3. The farm is revisited three months later and nothing appears to have changed. Paperwork shows that the farmer is contracted to Thames Valley Pigs, one of the UK’s biggest producers, and the resulting meat carries the quality assurance stamp Farm Assured British Pigs.
Unit 2 - Newham Farm. Sancreed, Cornwall
Scene 1. Opens at night with a dead pig in the water-soaked yard.
Scene 2. Returning in daylight, the dead pig can be clearly seen in a yard which looks like a junk yard. In a nearby field, a shallow scrape out of the soil has been used as a dump for other dead pigs - about a dozen in all - in various stages of decomposition.
Scene 3. A large windowless barn provides housing for pigs of all ages on two levels. Although bright daylight outside, so little light penetrates the building that illumination is dependent entirely upon the camera lights. Stocking densities are high but there is no sign of bedding.
Scene 4. Old sow stalls are shown. Although the restraining devices which held the sows captive have been removed, little else appears to have changed. Space for the animals outside of the stalls is limited and no bedding is provided.
Scene 5. Farrowing crates are shown with heavily pregnant sows about to give birth directly into their own excreta. In other pens, several dead and decaying piglets are shown still in the pens with their living siblings and mother.
The footage was shown to an independent vet with 27 years experience of pigs. His opinion was : “The overall impression is of squalor, degradation, neglect, bad hygiene and bad animal welfare”. We lodged a complaint with eight different bodies, including the Health and Safety Executive, Trading Standards, State Veterinary Service and Farm Animal Welfare Minister, Ben Bradshaw. He and all the others dismissed the complaints.
Scene 6. We return to the farm 12 months later to record any changes in conditions. The opening scene is of a sow held captive in a farrowing crate. She is - literally - smothered in flies and haemorrhaging badly from her vulva into the pen. The blood is caked on her hind quarters and newly-born piglets suckle alongside the large pool of blood. We complained to Trading Standards Animal Health Officer but the outcome was ‘confidential’.
Scene 7. We show one source of the fly infestation - a large bin filled with rotting dead piglets amid a sea of writhing maggots.
Scene 8. We return to an indoor shed to show piglets in darkened, filthy and barren pens, devoid of all bedding. They are heavily soiled with faeces. In one pen, two dead piglets have been left in with their living siblings. A large dead pig litters the gangway alongside a foraging rat. A top shot of grower pigs again shows, dark, barren and dirty pens stocked to very high densities.
Unit 3 - Porthbean Farm, Coverack, Cornwall.
Scene 1. Exterior shot of semi-dilapidated pens, part covered and part open.
Scene 2. A pen with wooden slatted floor presenting an image of filth and wetness. One pig has a distended stomach rupture.
Scene 3. A pen awash with what appears to be water and excrement. All animals are dirty. There is no sign of dry lying areas nor bedding materials.
Scene 4. Farrowing crates showing an imprisoned mother with a sore and inflamed stomach, with piglets scrambling over her to suckle. One has an inflamed and closed eye. Another is incapable of walking and shuffles along - clearly not a viable piglet but left with the herd.
Scene 5. Three piglets in a barren pen, one of which is little more than skin and bone. It appears to be not far from death and is in a pitiful state.
Scene 6. Grime-caked containers holding used hypodermics and drug bottles.
We lodged a complaint against this farm with the State Veterinary Service but the outcome was ‘confidential’.
Scene 7. We return to the farm six months later to film any possible changes in the conditions. In a mud-plastered yard, dead pigs have been abandoned and have started to decay.
Unit 4 - Grange Farm, Tannington, Suffolk
Scene 1. Shows similar conditions to many other intensive factory farms but in this instance, the pig man in charge informed Viva! that the farm had RSPCA Freedom Food approval. We have no means of checking this as membership of the Freedom Food scheme is a closely-guarded secret. No list of approved farms is issued to the public nor to the trustees of the RSPCA itself.
Grower pigs are covered with their own excreta and live in barren pens devoid of all environmental enrichment. The internal bedding area once contained a small amount of straw but it appears to have been trampled into a sodden mass and no longer seems to provide a dry lying area.
Unit 5 - Mear Farm, Hannington, Northants
Another RSPCA Freedom Food unit - only this time we were able to confirm it. Gangways are thick with mud and water and the animals - all of which are dirty - are kept in barren metal pens with the flooring awash with water and excreta. Food hoppers are entirely empty and there is no sign of a dry lying area.
Our complaints to the RSPCA and Government about the conditions at this farm were dismissed. Eventually the farm was closed but not through any action of the RSPCA.
Unit 6 - Somerset farm
Footage opens with a series of shots inside a farrowing unit. Several sows are confined in the crates - metalled-barred prisons - none of whom appear to have any bedding. Dead piglets litter the gangway.
Piglets are shown in large metal bins held inside a shed.
Footage of pregnant sows reveals what was once a shed full of sow stalls. Having now been made illegal, all that seems to have changed is that the backs of the stall have been removed to allow the sows a little more freedom - very little! The sows have to still lie in the stalls because there is insufficient space. It is a filthy area of concrete floors, dirt and no bedding.
Unit 7 - Edney’s Farm, Mells, Somerset
Further footage of farrowing crates reveals a closed shed and almost impenetrable darkness (it is light outside). Sows lie behind iron bars on solid concrete floors with no bedding of any kind. Excreta piles up behind them as they lie immobilised. Their piglets try to suckle with no bedding as comfort.
Footage of weaners shows what is rapidly becoming the industry standard - flat deck systems. Here, piglets just a few weeks old live on perforated metal floors - no bedding, no enrichment, nothing to do and not even a separate bedding area. There is not a strand of straw in sight. The conditions in which grower pigs - the next stage in the cycle - are, if anything, even more depressing. Crowded, darkened, barren pens with nothing to interest them and no ability to fulfil their natural instincts.
A dead pig has been abandoned in the gangway.
Unit 8 - Church Farm, Aldringham, Suffolk
The scene opens on what appears to be a near-derelict farm yard and cuts to pregnant sows in a tiny, filthy concrete pen - again no sign of bedding or a separate dry lying area.
It cuts to the interior of a farrowing shed in almost total darkness, illuminated only by the camera lights. Rows of sows are help captive in metal stalls. In one stall, two new-born piglets shiver uncontrollably. One sow repeatedly bites the bars of her stall in a repeated motion. This is stereotypic behaviour - a sign of mental collapse.
Unit 9 - Woodside Farm, Postling, Kent
Again, barren pens and darkness. Concrete pens have small, barred open areas which are probably meant to be for dunging. However, all are awash with a filthy black liquid in which the pigs have to stand. Our investigators said it was not rainwater but stinking slurry from an overflowing lagoon. The animals are covered in filth. Our complaint to the government was dismissed and months later nothing had changed.
Unit 10 - Blagdon Farm, Hartland Point, Devon
The scene opens with filthy pigs in a concrete enclosure and cuts to an animal with swollen testicles. In one small area there are three pigs who are in severe difficulties and incapable of walking. Amongst the filthy animals is one with a grossly distended rupture. Some straw is provided but it is hardly generous.
Unit 11 - Devon Farm
Another barren pen crowded with filthy animals - no bedding and no enrichment. These are swill pigs and liquid fed - boiled up kitchen waste is fed automatically into the pens. The pigs sensitive snouts, designed for rooting, are rendered redundant. The animals are all excessively filthy and the pens are wet, covered in excreta and offer no comfort of any kind - not even a dry lying area. A lame pig is left with the main herd.
Unit 12 - Appledown Farm, Kingsdown, Kent
More animals covered in filth - almost certainly excreta. Again our complaint to the Government was dismissed.
Unit 13 - Somerset Farm
Crowded grower pigs on a barren, wooden-slatted floor. One animal has a raw and bloodied ear, almost certainly the result of having been bitten by its colleagues. They continue to worry at the wound. In almost total darkness, sows have been left to farrow onto a floor deep in excreta. The new born piglets share their cell with other sows waiting to give birth and are clearly at risk in these conditions.
Unit 14 - Pig Improvement Company, near Hull, Humberside
Despite being one of the country’s biggest producers, production methods are the same as elsewhere - metal-barred farrowing crates and an absence of bedding.
Unit 15 - Pig Improvement Company, Honeybourne, Worcs
Again the industry standard - crowded flat-deck systems with no bedding, nothing to interest the little animals and no ability to fulfil even the most basic natural instincts.
Unit 16 - Somerset Unit
More rows of flat-deck systems but with a seriously ill pig abandoned in the gangway to die.
Unit 17 - Heyfield Farm, Ditchling, E. Sussex
More filthy pigs covered in excreta.
Unit 18 - Midland Pig Producers, Downholland, Merseyside
Another big producer and again the flat-deck system - barren pens with perforated metal floors.