- Report into UK pig industry shows devastating daily life for pigs
- Consumers start to turn away from pig meat but UK exports have risen
- Numerous undercover investigations show conditions deteriorating, while industry claims ‘best standards in the world’
A major investigation into the state of British pig farming has revealed that more than 90 per cent of pigs killed for meat in the UK are indoor factory farmed.
Pig Farming: The Inside Story is a 64-page report from vegan charity Viva! that draws out the real picture inside UK pig farms – and the story is harrowing.
Revelations in the report include:
- Only 1.5 per cent of UK pigs are organic and outdoors their entire life (1)
- 93 per cent of pigs killed for meat are indoor factory farmed (2)
- 80 per cent of UK pigs suffer mutilations including having their tails cut off and teeth clipped or ground down (without anaesthetic), exposing the pulp cavity (3)
- 60 per cent of breeding sows give birth in crates, which they remain in until their litter is weaned (4)
- Half of antibiotics throughout the world, including in the UK are given to farmed animals (5) with 60 per cent of these being used in pigs (6)
There are around 4.9 million pigs alive in Britain at any one time and the average large-scale pig factory farm houses around 900 sows (female pigs). About 10 million pigs are killed every year for meat – the equivalent of three pigs every second. (7)
However, although pig meat consumption has reduced overall by 10 per cent since 2007, Pig Farming: The Inside Story also shows that in 2014 pig slaughter increased sharply and about 1.3 million tonnes of pig meat was consumed in the UK that year.
Juliet Gellatley, founder and director, Viva!, zoologist and author of the report said: “This research from Viva! is the most up-to-date, across-the-board insight into the state of British pig farming in the UK.
“It comes at a time when people are becoming more aware of the serious health problems faced by eating processed and red meat in general, but also, I believe, at a time when we are seeing more people look at the realities of how meat is produced.
“Pigs are very intelligent creatures who long for space, grass and mud in the outdoors. They are incredibly sensitive both as physical and emotional beings and yet our investigation shows the conditions that the vast majority of the 10 million pigs who are killed for their meat in the UK each year are anything but that.
“Consumers have a choice. While we know that the truth can be hard to digest, It’s important that people start to join up the dots and realise they can stop this torture just by not buying pork in their weekly shop.”
Although pigs can live to around 15 years of age, most pigs slaughtered for meat will be killed as soon as they hit adult weight – at just five or six months old.
Viva! researchers also found that, despite UK consumers being told Britain has the best welfare standards in the world, these young animals are condemned to barren hovels with just footballs or chains hanging from the ceiling as a pitiful form of ‘environmental enrichment’, which is the bare minimum that UK legislation states farmers must provide for their animals.
Undercover investigations in pig farms carried out by the charity, which are also detailed in the report along with disturbing images of what was found, also show that on many occasions conditions are not even reaching these basic standards.
And, because pigs are kept in dirty, overcrowded conditions with diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia running rife, the industry is propped up by drug use, a major cause of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, including Salmonella, E coli and MRSA strains.
Juliet says: “I have secretly filmed inside British pig farms over many years and they are getting worse. Each time we film, mothers are confined in metal crates and give birth on to concrete. They are often fly-infested places as dead piglets are strewn around gangways left to rot. One fifth of piglets die before weaning in Britain’s factory farms.”
The report also lays waste the claims by the pig industry that it is under threat, which it believes is part of a wider marketing campaign to encourage people to buy British pork.
In DEFRA’s Agriculture in the UK 2014 report, it clearly shows this is not the case as imports are significantly lower that year than in 2010, while exports of pig meat from Britain are growing .
Juliet said: “We have heard over the years from the meat industry the reasons they believe these staggeringly low standards are necessary and the most recent version is that the UK is becoming commercially uncompetitive.
“But, actually, as our report shows, government figures do not bear this out. The industry will always try to make excuses for cruelty. It is time for the British nation to stop supporting something that is inexcusable.
“Our simple aim is for people to see the truth and not be caught out by the lies they are being told about what their money is actually paying for.”
4) Calculations based on Agriculture in the United Kingdom 2007 and 2014 (Defra) and FAWC. 2015. Opinion on Free Farrowing Systems. Farm Animal Welfare Council [online] Available from: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/478588/Opinion_on_Free_Farrowing_Systems.pdf
5) FAO. 2011. Farm animals consumer nearly half of all the antibiotics produced worldwide [online] Available from: www.fao.org/ag/againfo/themes/animalwelfare/newsdetail/en/c/94981/
6) Soil Association. 2016. E. Coli superbugs on farms and food Soil Association [online] It WAS here: https://www.soilassociation.org/linkclick/?fileticket=yCT9su5iViQ%3d&tabid=313 (see also it referenced at that link HERE: http://www.ruma.org.uk/response-soil-association-report-e-coli-superbugs-farms-food/).
7) DEFRA. 2013. Agriculture in the United Kingdom. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs [online] Available from: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/315103... [Accessed 26 January 2016]