The dark side of British pig farming | Viva!

The dark side of British pig farming

Potentially illegal practices, despair and neglect exposed on Farm Assured farms

Release date: 
Friday, April 4, 2008

APPALLING scenes of neglect in pig farms in the North East of England have been exposed by animal campaigning group Viva!

The undercover footage, which was shot within the last few weeks, is indicative of an industry where animal welfare is routinely ignored, they say. Investigations around the country by the group show the problem is widespread and negates the claims and new campaign by the pig industry that buying British is a guarantee of animals being treated well.

Viva!'s investigation found appalling scenes of neglect on two farms belonging to the Farm Assured scheme* " which the public are led to believe promises good welfare. Investigators found dead and rotting pigs and piglets lying uncollected outside units; sows with open sores imprisoned in metal crates; pigs kept in concrete pens with no bedding or environmental enrichment; piglets huddled together, covered in flies; and a piglet so badly crippled he had to drag himself across the floor by his front legs. The group also believes they have uncovered potential law breaking on one farm, which Defra is currently investigating**.

Photos from the investigation can be viewed here:

Over the past two years, Viva! has visited dozens of pig farms across Britain and documented cruel and unhealthy methods of production which, it says, will shock most consumers. Chosen entirely at random, the units exposed are typical of UK pig farms generally and reveal a picture of filth, overcrowding, dead and dying animals and widespread neglect.

Justin Kerswell, Viva!'s campaigns manager, says: "In its recent campaign, the British pig industry has boasted of the best animal welfare in the world, yet everywhere we point the camera we see filth, suffering and neglect. It is time they stopped conning the public with meaningless assurances and hyperbole and owned up to the gruesome reality of pig production in the UK.

'the footage we shot inside farms in the North East is shocking and repugnant, but it's sadly typical of what we expect to find right across the country when welfare is barely given a thought. We hope that the authorities will take our concerns seriously and prosecute if they find the law has been broken. Sadly, prosecutions for cruelty are rare.

'However, this is the reality of British pig farming. If you buy sausages or bacon it is likely that it will come from places like these. Thankfully consumers can do something about this. It's not about buying foreign vs. buying British. We urge everyone to give all pig meat the push and go vegetarian " that's the only sure way to stop the suffering.'


Notes for editors

* Comments made by Stewart Houston, the chairman of the British Pig Executive (Bpex): . The farms were Westfield Piggeries, Sherburn Malton and Westfield Farm, Eryholme, Nr Darlington (they are not owned by the same people).

** On one farm no bedding and no manipulable materials were provided for either group housed sows nor weaners. This is against the law: (The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003 No. 299), Schedule 6, Part II, paragraph 16 states that: To enable proper investigation and manipulation activities, all pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such which does not adversely affect the health of the animals. Defra recommendations for all pigs. Section Management " Environmental Enrichment: The weaners also appeared to be tail docked, something which is allowed to be done routinely " and can only be done when appropriate environmental enrichment has been tried.

Investigation was lawful. Premises were entered via open doors. Appropriate bio-security measures were taken and GPS readings were filmed that prove location of the farms.

Defra figures show that over 90 per cent of British piglets are raised in intensive indoor units where they will never go outside, and are killed at just six months (Survey of Agriculture and Horticulture: 1 June 2006. England. Defra).

For further details on the investigation, for other (hi-res) images, or for footage please contact Justin Kerswell or Helen Rossiter on 0117 944 1000 or email or For more on Viva!'s campaign against the factory farming of pigs visit

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