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Tel: 0117 944 1000
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Embargoed until 5am, 7 March 2001
Britain’s Pig Slums Exposed
Filthy conditions encourage the spread of diseases
Video footage of conditions inside
18 British pig units has been released by leading animal welfare group
Viva!. It provides powerful evidence for why farming is faced with recurrent
health scares and why diseases such as foot and mouth spread so rapidly.
Chosen entirely at random, the units exposed in the 20-minute tape are
typical of UK pig farms and reveal a terrifying picture of filth, overcrowding,
dead and dying animals and widespread animal abuse. Despite many complaints,
all the farms operate with the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture
Fisheries & Food (MAFF).
Some of the scenes shown in Pig in Hell require a strong stomach. They
include dead and rotting piglets alongside living siblings; dead pigs
left in the open to decay, prey to dogs and wildlife; dead piglets beneath
a sea of writhing maggots; an imprisoned sow covered in flies and blood;
a pregnant sow about to give birth into her own excreta; pigs coated in
their own faeces with filthy, wet concrete on which to sleep; animals
with rupture’s the size of footballs; pigs dragging themselves around,
unable to walk.
An independent pig vet with 27 years experience describes Viva!’s footage
in the following words: “The overall impression is of squalor, degradation,
neglect, bad hygiene and bad animal welfare.”
The Pig in Hell video shows how cruel and unhealthy methods of production
have become commonplace behind the walls of Britain’s factory farms. Most
breeding sows are held captive in metal farrowing crates for 28 days at
a time, barely able to move and never able to turn around. Young piglets
are kept on barren, perforated floors in flat deck systems, mostly with
no bedding or rooting materials.
“The foot and mouth epidemic has been traced to a farm in Northumberland
where the conditions have been described as ‘a disgrace’”, says Viva!’s
director, Juliet Gellatley. “The shocking truth is that most of Britain’s
pig farms are a disgrace and MAFF can take much of the responsibility.
They gave the Northumberland farm a clean bill of health only three months
ago despite numerous complaints. Similarly, they dismissed complaints
against several of the farms on our video - farms which ignore MAFF’s
own guidelines and which would fill the public with disgust if they ever
“Words are superfluous and I challenge anyone to view our footage and
defend this legalised animal abuse”, continues Ms Gellatley. “The meat
industry boasts the best animal welfare in the world - it’s like awarding
star ratings to concentration camps. They are being allowed to subject
intelligent creatures to endless suffering and are threatening human health
- all disguised with meaningless quality assurance schemes and little
red tractor symbols. The Government is colluding in this deceit for the
sake of rural votes and we have demanded a response to our footage from
Less than a month ago, the ASA found against the MLC over false claims
for animal welfare in advertisements for The British Meat Quality Standard
Mark. One of the worst units in which Viva! filmed provides meat for this
‘quality mark’. Over the past five years, Viva! has won 13 judgements
against the MLC for false claims.
Almost all meat pigs are reared in factory farms and survive only with
the routine use of a battery of drugs. The problems start at three weeks
old because piglets are weaned too early, before their digestive and immune
systems have properly developed. This makes them highly susceptible to
endemic diseases such as pneumonia, dysentery and meningitis and sporadic
infections such as swine fever and foot and mouth.
“We have to stop shedding tears for farmers and start demanding real changes
in agriculture”, says Ms Gellatley. “Factory farming is cruel and unsustainable,
it is a growing threat to human health and it demeans a society which
claims to be compassionate. No one can any longer pretend that all is
well down on the factory farm. As BSE shows - if we don’t end intensive
farming it might well end us!”
For copies of the Pig in Hell video, still pictures, a
shot list of the footage and Viva!’s
report on intensive pig production, please contact Juliet Gellatley
or Becky Smith on 0117 944 1000.
our picture library for images.
> View our video footage of two farms