Every time you open the door to one of these farms, you tell yourself: ‘it will be better than the last. They can’t all be ignoring the law, they can’t all be inflicting such misery.’ But then you see the pigs, and realise the scale of the suffering. It breaks your heart.
Compassion’s Head of Investigations
The biggest welfare scandal in modern farming?
In 2013 Compassion visited 45 pig farms across the EU. We went south to Italy and Spain; south-east to Cyprus; west to Ireland; and east to Poland and the Czech Republic. On every single farm we found the laws put in place to protect pig welfare were being flouted – the suffering was hard to witness.
We believe aspects of the Pigs Directive are being blatantly ignored all across the EU, inflicting illegal cruelty on millions of intelligent and sensitive animals. There are over 140 million pigs in the EU at any one time. Sometimes the scale of the challenge we are facing seems overwhelming.
Spanish pig farms – 2013
In January 2013, Compassion in World Farming carried out an investigation into pig farming in Spain. Investigators visited 15 farms. What they uncovered was shocking.
Undercover in Spain's pig farms
This film contains scenes of animal suffering which you may find upsetting.
EU law requires farmers to provide enrichment materials to allow pigs to engage in their natural investigation and manipulation activities. Yet our investigation proves that many farms still house pigs in squalid or completely barren conditions with no ‘manipulable materials’, like straw in any of the pens.
I thought many of these pigs would end up in the large waste bins found on site, and on further inspection these bins were often full with both the old and the young.
EU law makes it illegal to keep sows in stalls beyond the first four weeks of pregnancy. Yet, evidence suggests that pigs are often kept confined inside sow stalls for far longer than the four weeks.
In almost all farms that we visited, all pigs had their tails removed, almost certainly without pain relief, despite EU rules forbidding routine tail docking... In a few of the farms we visited, dead pigs were left in bins at the farm gate.
Filthy, squalid conditions
These photos were taken during my investigation in Spain, January 2013.
I saw thousands of pigs kept in barren conditions.
Barren conditions (1)
They are possibly some of the most barren, poorly managed farms I’ve ever seen.
Individual cases of suffering stood out at every farm visited - tail docking is a routine practice on Spanish pig farms.
Victim of fighting
Some pigs were covered snout to 'docked' tail with bites and scratches. They would cower in the corner away from their companions, but were unable to escape from aggression.
Many of these pigs end up in the large waste bins found on site, often full of both young and old.
These were truly awful units and something I will never forget seeing.
These are possibly some of the most barren, poorly managed farms I’ve ever seen. Something I will never forget seeing.
Italian pig farms – 2013
In early 2013, Compassion in World Farming’s Investigation Unit carried out an investigation into pig farming in Italy. The investigation team visited 11 farms in an area famous for pig production. The conditions on all farms were deplorable and the resulting footage left even hardened investigators shocked.
Shocking maltreatment uncovered in Italy
This film contains scenes of animal suffering which you may find upsetting.
despite EU law requiring farmers to provide enrichment materials, such as straw, we found all the pigs were housed in barren conditions with no manipulable materials to satisfy their inquisitive minds. We also discovered many pigs were kept in squalid, cramped conditions with no space to escape from their own waste, which had flooded the pens.
In all farms that we visited, all pigs had their tails docked, often severely, almost certainly without pain relief, despite EU rules forbidding routine tail docking.
In some of the farms we visited, pigs had clearly been the victims of fighting. This is likely as a result of lack of space to move away from aggressors, boredom causing them to pick on each other and lack of access to feed at the same time. In one case, the injuries inflicted as a result of this fighting had resulted in one pig dying.
In a number of farms, lame and sick pigs had been left in barren alleyways, rather than be placed in a hospital area where they could recover in a pen with straw for comfort and away from other pigs that would cause them harm. Left to suffer in silence, our investigators found evidence that sick pigs were just left there to die.
In some farms animals were so densely housed that they were barely able to lie down together
"In some farms animals were so densely housed that they were barely able to lie down together."
Pigs stuck in filthy, barren systems
"Many pigs were kept in squalid, cramped conditions with no space to escape from their own waste, which had flooded the pens."
I was struck by their red eyes.
“I was struck by their red eyes. They were so sore I’m surprised they could even open them.”
Rarely did I see a sick pig given the care and attention they required
"Rarely did I see a sick pig given the care and attention they required."
And on one farm, injured and dead pigs were left in an alleyway
"And on one farm, injured and dead pigs were left in an alleyway."
Many pigs were scarred from fighting.
"Many pigs were scarred from fighting."
I’d never seen pigs so deprived of stimulation, that the only thing to occupy their inquisitive nature is to play with their own waste. Using their snouts to push it through the metal bars of their pens and then back in again really hit me hard.
Hundreds of pigs were in this vast shed. I could barely hear my colleague in here such was the noise.
Irish pig farms – 2013
Compassion in World Farming’s Investigation Unit has uncovered the worst abuses of pig welfare in the EU to date.
In the spring of 2013, our investigations unit visited five Irish pig farms. The conditions they found were beyond our investigators’ worst expectations.
The Lonely Night
This video contains harrowing scenes that may cause distress.
The farms were situated across three counties (Cork, Waterford and Kerry). We fear it is likely that they are representative of a large section of the Irish pig farming industry.
At the same time as this investigation was taking place, Ireland held the EU Presidency – and the Irish Government was making a show of taking the lead on animal welfare. Meanwhile, some of the most horrific cruelty we’ve yet uncovered was going on under its nose.
Our investigators found pigs forced to live in fly infested pens, inches deep in excrement. They were covered by scratch and bite marks, a result of the cramped, barren conditions, which cause agression, frustration and can even lead to canabilsm.
Although illegal, tail docking was routine, and a number of the pigs had open wounds caused by tail biting, another sign of frustration. Some were so bored they had begun chewing on the carcasses of dead pigs, whose bodies had been left in the pens.
Cramped and covered in flies
The pigs were crammed in and covered with flies due to the filthy conditions
The pigs were forced to lie in their own excrement
Most of the pigs were covered in scratch marks caused by fighting
Open wounds caused by tail biting were a common sight
Weak and emaciated pigs were left to die
The boredom drove pigs to chew on the bodies of dead pigs left in their pens
We also found weak and emaciated pigs left to die in corridors. Those who had been transferred to ‘hospital pens’ had been abandoned. Those who had already died, young and old, were dumped in large 'Dead bins'.
This is not an issue that only affects Irish consumers. 75% of Irish pig meat is exported, and 30% of that is destined for the UK.