In recent times, I’ve been privileged to take to the international stage, carrying the mantle for farm animal welfare. During my travels, I have seen pigs kept in a wide variety of ways; some appalling, others positively joyful. I’ve seen everything from pigs kept in woodlands to frighteningly huge mega-pig farms in China and Mexico.
When I’m talking to governments, food companies or producers along the way, I proudly talk about the reforms that have been brought in to protect the welfare of pigs in Europe. Legislation that outlaws the prolonged use of sow stalls in Europe, where pregnant pigs can’t turn around for months at a time – banned in Britain in 1999 but not in the EU until January this year. I also talk about the European law that prevents pigs having their tails routinely cut off and requires that they must be provided with basic material such as straw, rather than totally barren pens such as is the norm on factory farms.
It was a real bone-shaker then, to find that hard-won reforms are being widely flouted in Europe. Compassion’s latest investigation lifts the lid on pig farms in Spain and found upsetting scenes including:
- No straw or other enrichment, causing pigs to frantically chew at the bars of their barren pen out of frustration;
- Severely ‘docked’ tails – cut-off to control biting amongst bored pigs;
- Overcrowded and lame pigs;
- Pigs having to stand in flooded waste and lying in their own excrement;
- ‘Pig bins’ outside farms filled with maggot-ridden dead pigs.
Our investigators uncovered pitiful scenes.
What’s scandalous is that all these situations contravene European law.
All of this underscores our campaign to ensure that pigs are treated as sentient beings, capable of feeling pain, suffering and joy. We are stepping up our campaign; pressing governments and the European Commission to take swift action against those who ignore the law. Action is needed for the pigs’ sake and for those producers who have switched to doing the right thing and are being undermined in the marketplace by those who haven’t.