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Somerset pig farm is revisited five years on
Posted 11 July 2013
Animal Aid investigators have gone back to a pig farm they first visited five years ago to see whether conditions have improved. In June 2008, Animal Aid filmed a number of disturbing scenes at Edneys Farm in Mells, Somerset, including dead animals, many injuries, sows incarcerated in farrowing crates and inadequate enrichment for the animals. In June 2013, little appears to have improved.
One investigator wrote: ‘It’s been five years since I was last there and I wondered, on my night visit, if I would find the place in the dark. In the end it was easy: I just followed my nose to the bins full to the brim of rotting, maggot-infested pigs.’ In one of the huge open-topped bins, one pig looked as though her ears had either rotted or been burned away and yet her eyes remained open. Maggots crawled over the dead bodies.
It is not known how those animals died, but leaving their bodies to rot in open-topped bins is illegal. Dead pigs are classed as Category 2 Animal By-Products, a ‘high risk material’. The government’s website spells out the risk and the law relating to the disposal of these bodies: ‘Biosecurity measures are of paramount importance in case the animal has died of a contagious and thus notifiable disease. You must remove any fallen stock to an area to which other livestock and wildlife have no access.’1 Clearly, birds, rodents and other animals could easily access these bins.
While biosecurity appears lax, one lesson has been learned in the past five years: if you can’t or won’t improve biosecurity, hygiene and welfare, make sure no one can film it. The doors that were once left open were now securely padlocked, allowing us no access to the farrowing crates or fattening sheds.
However, the automated ventilation system meant that there was an opportunity to film briefly as the windows opened to allow some of the heat out of the sheds, and our investigator took advantage of this.
Inside the unit, metal-walled pens incarcerate groups of pigs, packed tightly together in the small space. The floor is slatted and there is no enrichment except for a single metal chain hanging from the ceiling. All the pigs we filmed were tail docked – which is illegal if conducted routinely.
A view over the ramshackle barn showed rows of similarly barren and crowded pens. And in the yard outside the barn, were two more dead pigs in open sacks – another biosecurity breach.
Says Kate Fowler, Head of Campaigns at Animal Aid:
‘While the industry continues to bemoan the poor welfare standards on foreign pig farms, it does its best to hide the shocking suffering taking place in the UK. Edneys Farm was – and still is – one of the industry’s shameful secrets. In 2008, we filmed sows in crates so small they could not move a step forward or back; no bedding for them or their young; a stillborn piglet lying beside a bloody placenta amongst live electrical wires, next to a crate holding a mother and her live piglets; inadequate enrichment; and many injuries. Five years on, we can see how desperate the industry is to keep those secrets hidden, with the only obvious investment being in padlocks, designed to keep us away from the farrowing crates. Elsewhere, all the signs show that nothing has changed: no bedding; inadequate enrichment; docked tails; and animals left to rot in the open. This is the true nature of British pig farms.’