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New Investigation Reveals Suffering of Sows Confined in Cages

News Section Icon Published 07/07/2022

Sows in stalls

Our major new undercover investigation released today (7th July) has revealed the immense suffering of sows in cage systems on EU farms – including those supplying ‘premium’ hams Parma and Bayonne.

Powerful new footage from 16 farms across Italy, Spain, France and Poland exposes the cruelty, torment and frustration that sows are forced to suffer in stalls and farrowing crates as they await the promised EU ban on caged farming.

Premium products, extreme confinement

The farms investigated include those supplying so-called ‘premium’ products – Parma and Bayonne hams. Our investigators found that sows on these farms were kept in the same extreme confinement as those on ‘standard’ farms; confinement typically endured by an estimated 85% of sows in the EU.

Our investigation found that sows:

  • spend many weeks in cages so small they prevent practically all movement apart from standing up and 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 cage
  • resort to abnormal repetitive behaviours like bar biting and chewing the air because they are so frustrated

We’re sending a summary of our investigation findings to agriculture ministers across Europe and calling on them to introduce the EU ban on caged farming without delay.

Committing to End the Cage Age

Last year, the European Commission publicly committed to introducing legislation to end the caging of EU farm animals. This pledge was made in response to the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative, led by us, 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.

Unimaginable suffering

“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, our Senior Campaigns Manager.

"Our investigation reveals that these farms are no better than standard ones – the animals are still caged for a significant part of the lives, 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.”

Hitting the headlines 

Our expose gained excellent media coverage across the globe, including in Italy, Poland, Portugal, Sweeden, Egypt, India and the US – helping to highlight the plight of sows confined in cages far and wide.

Here in the UK, our investigation was covered in major national outlets, including BBC News, The Independent, The Guardian and the Daily Mail.

Take action

Hundreds of millions of farmed animals across the European Union are needlessly suffering in cages. Please, take action to End the Cage Age.


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