“Pigs are forced to live in dirty, wet, exposed concrete pens, completely covered in their own urine and faeces, without any respite. These are extremely hygienic animals by nature and these cramped, dirty, nourished The extremely poor environment has undoubtedly caused both physical and psychological damage to them.
“The stress and lack of proper care caused by this environment appears to be contributing to the disease on the farm, with associated mortality in the form of full ‘dead boxes’ and vices such as tail biting and cannibalism.
She added: “The level of concern the farm staff have shown for the pigs is deeply concerning and it is clear that the issues were not dealt with promptly and appropriately, resulting in long-term, entirely avoidable suffering.”
Claire Palmer, founder of the Animal Justice Project, said: “Sadly, in this case the cameras don’t lie. As pork sales continue to rise, our footage captures the harsh reality of pig farming on modern UK farms.
“Consumers have a worldwide commitment to their food choices, with Red Tractor’s label including 95% UK pigs, public-pleasing guarantees and high welfare claims, and a corporate responsible supermarket policy.”
She added: “At Bickmarsh Hall farm the pigs are living in dirt and manure, left to suffer and kept in concrete cells. Consumers now have to ask themselves, are bacon sandwiches or pork pies really worth it?”
Peter Egan said: “While I have witnessed many tragic scenes of animal cruelty, I found the video taken at Bickmarsh Hall Farm to be particularly heartbreaking.
“To see such intelligent and sensitive animals subjected to such horrific abuse, from being beaten, kicked, left to die, to living in filth and being kept in cages, reveals a callous industry that leaves its mark on humans .”
The Animal Justice Project claimed that its experienced staff had witnessed the breaches “of the worst kind”. But they worry that the welfare situation will worsen as a result of the increase in the number of large UK farms with thousands of animals cared for by fewer staff.
Not all pigs need bedding under the Red Tractor scheme. Bickmarsh pens have no padding or comfort items, just hard slats. Many were filthy, with pigs covered in thick feces. The animals were recorded biting and fighting each other – there were only five feeding troughs for about 25 pigs.
In 2021, almost 11 million pigs will be killed by the UK agricultural sector. Even as vegetarianism becomes an increasingly popular dietary choice, the number of animals slaughtered continues to increase.
Cranswick Country Foods said the “highest standards of animal welfare” were applied “throughout the supply chain” and that all of its UK producers had been “independently audited”. After seeing the footage, it carried out an unannounced audit of Bickmarsh Hall, announcing it “found that the unit was operating to the required standard.”
A Tesco spokesman told Ecologist: “We take any allegations of this nature very seriously and are urgently investigating this video with our suppliers.
“We require all of our suppliers to uphold high animal welfare standards – all our pigs are raised to recognized farm assurance standards such as Red Tractor, RSPCA Assured and our own Tesco Welfare Approved standard which exceeds government Approved industry standard of benefits.”
ecologist Red Tractor, Cranswick Country Foods, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have been consulted.
Brendan Montague is ecologist. This article is based on a press release from the Animal Justice Project.