Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Stop mutilating Britain's Christmas piglets!

Viva! calls for ban on 'cruel practices'

Release date: 
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

LEADING animal group Viva! are calling on the Government to end the painful mutilation of British piglets this Christmas after filming the practice on a British farm in the past few months. It is believed that this is the first time the disturbing practice has been recorded in the UK. Viva!'s ground-breaking undercover investigator filmed horrific scenes of piglets under seven days of age having their four back teeth clipped off and their tails cut off. It is all done without anaesthetic, but is perfectly legal. It is claimed that the mutilations are done to prevent the piglets from biting each other's tails and damaging sow's teats. However, the group maintain that this stereotypic behaviour is caused by cramped factory farming conditions. Mutilations may lessen but do not totally prevent pigs attacking each other. Shockingly, most British piglets suffer mutilations on British farms despite the British pig industry claiming that we have the best farmed animal welfare in the world. Viva! are calling on consumers to turn their back on eating pork, bacon and other pig meat this Christmas - to send a clear message to the Government and the farming industry that this practice is totally unacceptable. Viva! campaigner Tom Lane says: “Consumers are constantly told that we have the best farmed animal welfare in the world, yet the only way to keep Britain's factory farms in production and supermarket shelves stocked is to mutilate piglets. I'm sure most people would be horrified to hear that most of the 9 million pigs born in the UK suffer some kind of mutilation. It's even more shocking that much of it is carried out without anaesthetic because the piglets are less than seven days old. Imagine the outcry if this was done to human babies! “Pigs rarely attack each other in the wild, yet aggression is common on intensive units. The Government knows this and routine mutilations are supposedly prohibited by law - yet most pigs are still mutilated. The law calls for environmental enrichment, but often this is just a joke - handfuls of straw, a football or a chain hanging from the ceiling is all it takes for farmers to satisfy the word of the law. It is a profound welfare insult for these sensitive, intelligent animals. Is it any wonder that they are driven to turn on each other by boredom, frustration and sometimes even madness' “Strict enforcement of the laws around enrichment are the very least that is needed. However, the whole systems is broken and factory farming causes great suffering. The best way to help end this suffering is for consumers to turn their back on pig meat this Christmas - and go for a veggie option instead. ENDS Notes Footage is available to view now at www.piggles.org.uk. The Government's own advisory body on farmed animal welfare (FAWC: Farmed Animal Welfare Council) issued a report in March 2011 called OPINION ON MUTILATIONS AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENRICHMENT IN PIGLETS AND GROWING PIGS. Professor Wathes, Chairman of FAWC, said “Mutilations involve handling stress, acute pain and the possibility of chronic pain. The report also says: “Most of the 9 million piglets born in the UK each year experience some form of mutilation. Also that, despite a supposed ban on routine mutilations it appears to happen mostly as standard: “The industry estimates that at least 80 per cent of UK piglets are tail-docked. Viva! have written to James Paice MP (the minister at Defra responsible for animal welfare) to ask what progress has been made and demand clear assurances that the Government would actively work to end mutilations and ensure that rules around environmental enrichment are no longer open to what can be seen as abuse. Although there are no figures for incidences of tooth splintering in the UK (caused by teeth clipping) it is believed that this can affect up to 25 per cent of piglets in other countries and can cause damage to the gum and chronic infection. Piglet's teeth are clipped to try and prevent damage to sow's teats. However, the majority of British sows (over 70 per cent according Assured British Pigs (2008)) are confined to farrowing crates little bigger than their bodies and cannot escape from their piglets. Viva!'s footage also shows sows incarcerated in farrowing crates, facing a breeze block wall for five weeks at a time. They cannot turn around during this period. The FAWC report also details how almost all British pigs are 'slap marked' with a tattooed number (sometimes on both sides) with inked needles before slaughter. The report says: “The procedure presumably involves acute pain; the extent of any medium term pain is unknown but bruising is seen on some carcasses. The footage obtained by Viva! shows older pigs that have been tail docked, but those stumps are bleeding - and is likely the cause of tail biting by other pigs. The group believes this shows that tail docking does not prevent stereotypic behaviour in pigs - and does nothing to address its causes.