Cruelty Must Stop

13 February 2012, at 10:36pm

OPINION - An animal rights organisation has released the results of a new undercover investigation on a commercial pig farm in the UK, reports Jackie Linden. Along with legal and commercially widespread practices, about which the organisation was indignant, their investigation appears to reveal several instances of cruelty to the animals, which simply cannot be excused.

According to London-based Animal Equality, its undercover investigation, which has been featured in The Sunday Times yesterday (12 February) has carried out a ground-breaking two-month undercover investigation into a ‘Quality Assured’ (Red Tractor) farm in Norfolk.

The organisation, which states the promotion of veganism in its literature, “reveals the reality of the British pig industry“. Its investigator documented in detail the mental anguish and suffering of pigs on the farm, and appalling scenes of violence.

Animal Equality has released more than 200 hours of footage and recorded conversations, and more than 300 photos provide what it describes as “a shocking insight into the British pig industry and demonstrate that, regardless of whether a farm is labelled as 'Quality Assured', there exists pain, suffering and exploitation on a massive scale“.

Looking in detail at the allegations, 11 specific points are raised. Several of these – including tooth-clipping of piglets, that piglets are sometimes crushed by their mothers, the housing of sows in metal crates around farrowing and the use of cervical dislocation as a means of euthanasia in small pigs – are legal and acceptable commercial practice.

Some of the other practices documented on the farms can only be described as cruel and abusive and will be condemned by everyone in the industry. The fact that that such serious failures were uncovered on a farm that has received a quality assurance certification is particularly regrettable as it reflects badly on an industry that has made huge efforts to improve its standards and its image with the public over recent years.

Quality assurance schemes were not set up to prevent animal abuse and so cannot be expected to do so.

According to a local BBC news report, an RSPCA investigation has begun into the allegations at the farm, describing the footage as “some of the most shocking we have ever received“.

David Clarke, chief executive of Assured Food Standards (Red Tractor) is quoted as saying: “The behaviour shown on the video has no place within the assurance scheme and we completely condemn it.

“As soon as we were alerted to the issue on Friday of last week, we immediately removed the farm from the scheme on the basis of the video evidence and we have had an inspector on the farm during the weekend.

“We are reviewing our systems in light of the lessons learned here and will almost certainly revert to more unannounced inspections.“

NFU animal health and welfare adviser, Catherine McLaughlin, told the BBC: “The NFU is shocked and appalled by the scenes contained within this footage.“

Animal Equality and its supporters are quoted as saying that theirs is evidence “The British Pork industry would rather keep this exposé hidden“ (Rory Freedman, best-selling author of Skinny Bitch) but this may not be true for the great majority of those in the UK pig industry.

Whilst we may not condone the methods used by Animal Equality and its like, if the allegations it reveals are substantiated, there is more than a crumb of comfort in knowing that more of the very few people in the industry who perpetrate such terrible crimes have been found out and hopefully, prevented from ever having the opportunity to repeat such vile behaviour on any animal in the future.