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Cruelty of Pork Suppliers Unleashed

by 5m Editor
5 December 2008, at 11:05am

UK - Pigs so crazed by cramped and filthy conditions that they resort to gnawing at each other are being supplied by farmers to British shops, a European study by a respected animal charity shows.

According to The Independent, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) ran an investigation and discovered that 80 per cent of farms across five European countries engage in illegal practices such as barren pens and routine tail-docking.

CIWF observed that in 48 farms, the tails of pigs had been cut off to stop them biting each other inspite of the fact that the EU had lain down laws restricting tail-docking. Another 47 farms failed to rovide anything for the pigs to root around in, despite an EU requirement to provide "environmental enrichment" such as straw. Majority of the farms made widespread but legal use of metal cages for confining pregnant pigs. All in all, Spain had the worst conditions, followed by the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary and Britain.

The six-month investigation gives credence to complaints from British farmers that they are facing unfair competition from the Continent where pigs are kept in worse conditions. But even in Britain, CIWF said, people would be shocked by poor conditions for pigs.

"Most pigs in the EU suffer greatly in the harsh world of factory farming," said CIWF's chief policy adviser, Peter Stevenson. "Although conditions in the UK are better, we still need the pig industry to raise their game because many UK pigs continue to be kept in conditions that are inhumane and unlawful."

CIWF launched its exhaustive investigation ahead of a European Commission review next year of welfare legislation, the Pig Directive.

Pig-farming will come under scrutiny in the UK next month when Channel 4 screens a one-off programme by Jamie Oliver. The chef – whose friend, the TV presenter Jimmy Doherty, is an organic pig farmer – is expected to focus on the difference between British and Continental pig farming.

Farmers are still allowed to use sow stalls which prevent pigs from moving for a month while they wean their piglets. Campaigners say the practice is unnecessary in less intensive systems and the EU has agreed, banning it across Europe from 2013. In Britain, farmers use farrowing crates, which are less severe but still heavily restrict movement. The British Pig Executive says the UK imports most of its pigmeat, 81 per cent of bacon and 45 per cent of pork such as ham, sausages, and chops. Forty per cent of imports come from Denmark, which was not included in the study, though CIWF said farms there were similar to those in the Continental countries it visited.

In Spain, CIWF found many individual animals were in poor condition across a range of farms, suffering from various injuries including ear-biting. "Aggression, apparently caused by environmental factors such as lack of space was a significant trait observed in this country," it said. "A significant number of tail-docked pigs were present in 11 out of the 11 farms. There was no environmental enrichment."
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