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Undercover sow investigation including suppliers of ‘premium’ hams reveals immense cruelty

News Section Icon Published 07/07/2022

A major new investigation by Compassion in World Farming released today (6th July) reveals the immense suffering of sows in cage systems on EU farms – including those supplying ‘premium’ hams Parma and Bayonne.

Powerful new footage obtained as part of an investigation into 16 farms across Italy, Spain, France and Poland reveals the cruelty, torment and frustration that sows are forced to suffer in sow stalls and farrowing crates as they await the promised EU ban on caged farming.

The farms investigated include those supplying so-called ‘premium’ products – Parma and Bayonne hams. Investigators found that the cage systems in these farms were the same as those in ‘standard’ farms and typical of those currently endured by an estimated 85% of sows in the EU.

The investigation reveals that sows:

  • spend nearly half their adult lives in cages in so small they prevent practically all movement apart from standing up or lying down
  • endure lying in their own excrement and urine, something they would naturally avoid
  • experience the torment of being unable to properly nurture their young because of the restriction of the cages
  • resort to abnormal behaviours like bar biting and chewing the air because they are so frustrated.

In reaction to the findings, the animal welfare and environmental NGO is today sending a summary of the investigation findings to agriculture ministers across Europe and is urging supporters to send emails calling on them to press for the EU ban without delay.

Last year, the European Commission publicly committed to introducing legislation to end the caging of EU farm animals. This commitment was made in response to the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘End the Cage Age’, led by Compassion, which gathered 1.4 million verified signatures from citizens across the EU and was the first successful initiative for farmed animals.

Around eight million hams branded Parma are produced in Italy every year – 36% of these are exported and the US is the top export market where 757,000 hams were sold in 2021. Just under half of all exported Parma is sold within the EU, although the UK is the top export market for pre-sliced Parma ham.

Around a million Bayonne hams are produced in France every year. Export numbers are unavailable, but Bayonne hams are reported to be exported to countries including the USA, Germany, Belgium, Japan and the UK.

“People who pay a premium for products like Parma and Bayonne hams are likely to be shocked to discover that these ‘high-end’ products are from systems that keep animals in such cruel cages,” said Sarah Moyes, Compassion in World Farming’s Senior Campaigns Manager. “Our investigation reveals that their farms are no better than standard farms – the animals still spend a significant part of their lives in cages, just like around 85% of the EU’s sows.

“They are forced to live unimaginably miserable lives. They can’t move around, properly nurture their young, or express natural behaviours, and they’re so frustrated they resort to abnormal behaviours like bar biting. That’s why we’re urging the EU to introduce the ban they promised without delay.

“It’s also vital that the UK Government acts to introduce new laws to End the Cage Age for all animals farmed here too.”

A report released in March showed that a smooth financial transition can be achieved for farmers when the EU introduces a ban on cages. The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) report, Financing the cage-free farming transition in Europe, shows that both EU and national financial mechanisms can be used – some of which are already available to farmers – to support the transition to cage-free animal agriculture across the EU.

For more information, to arrange an interview or to request a pdf version of this press release, please email or call 01483 521 615.


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