Wed, 24 Jun 2020
An investigation has been launched at a West Berkshire farm after shocking video footage emerged of piglets being killed by having their heads slammed onto a concrete floor.
Calvesley Farm, in Yattendon, has now had its Red Tractor certification suspended following an undercover investigation into animal welfare standards by vegan charity Viva!
The hidden cameras also revealed workers on-site carrying out routine mutilations.
Each newborn piglet was pulled from its stall and thrown into a metal trough. Investigators captured workers using a hot knife to slice the piglets’ tails back to a bleeding stump and a pair of pliers to clip away their teeth – all without pain relief.
The act is supposed to prevent tail biting, a behaviour that manifests from distress and lack of stimulation.
Piglet corpses were also found strewn across the entrance to the old farrowing house, making them easily accessible for wild animals such as pheasants and foxes to eat.
NewburyToday has chosen not to show the footage, which can be found at Viva!s website.
The investigations took place over the course of three weeks, using hidden cameras to reveal what was occurring inside the farms’ sheds.
Calvesley, a breeding facility, and Whiteshoot, a fattening and finishing centre in Oxfordshire, are owned by Winterbrook Farm Partners.
Both farms are approved by the consumer assurance scheme Red Tractor.
But following the footage of a farm worker 'knocking’ young piglets – killing them by slamming their heads onto the concrete floor - Red Tractor launched an investigation.
Viva! said that the cruel act was followed by the worker dumping the bodies aside, likely because the animals were considered too small to be profitable.
Viva!’s founder and director Juliet Gellatley said “Our team witnessed appalling conditions in this investigation, documenting the systematic abuse of farmed pigs, whose short lives are filled with nothing but misery and pain.
"While some pigs were ruthlessly mutilated with barbaric hot knives and pliers, others were left to die slow, agonising deaths from their injuries – all for the sake of food."
NewburyToday contacted Winterbrook Farm Partners, who said they were aware of the footage but enquiries should be directed to the National Pig Association (NPA).
The association said: "The NPA is appalled at Viva’s entirely reckless behaviour trespassing on farms during a national lockdown aimed at protecting the country from a pandemic which has already cost the lives of thousands of people.
"As a responsible industry, an immediate independent investigation was triggered and the farm was suspended pending further investigation.
"We understand that the business has complied fully and appropriate action has been taken to rectify areas identified for improvement."
Viva! said that Calvesley Farm produced on average 400 piglets a week.
During each pregnancy the sows are confined to a farrowing crate for five weeks, four of which after birthing and restricting natural maternal instincts to physically bond with her young.
The cages are widely used on British factory farms and are legal.
At Whiteshoot, Viva found animals crammed together in "appalling conditions", allowing for infections to spread and mutate with ease.
The NPA said: "As with all livestock farming, pigs do sadly die, and accidents, injuries or infections can happen in any type of pig accommodation.
"What matters is the skill, expertise and care exercised by the stockman in identifying problems and dealing with them appropriately."
Mrs Gellatley said: "This investigation reiterates the fact that supermarket welfare claims and regulatory bodies such as Red Tractor are nothing but a façade for the horrendous, brutal and cruel reality of intensive factory farming in this country.
"These are not aberrant farms – they are typical of what is permitted by government and retailers. I think the customers of Morrisons will be disgusted to see the conditions on these farms.
"Not only do factory farms raise serious welfare concerns, they also create an ideal environment for mutating viruses and antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
"In fact, most governments thought the next pandemic would be caused by an avian influenza (bird flu) virus emerging from poultry or pigs.
"Our relationship with animals can no longer be just focussed on exploitation, the way meat is produced is now considered to be a global threat.
"It’s not just a case of banning wet markets, although that can’t come soon enough. We need to stop factory farming too and are calling on consumers to choose vegan.”
In response to the Viva investigation a spokesperson for Red Tractor, said: ''We were very disappointed by some of the images in the footage.
''Protecting animal health and welfare is one of our top priorities. Red Tractor requires all members to meet every standard, every day and take any allegations of breaches seriously.
‘We immediately launched an investigation and as a result the farms' Red Tractor Certification have been suspended and sanctions put in place to address the issues raised through this process.’'
Red Tractor said it could not share details of the sanctions but said that a suspension means that a farm is unable to sell any livestock or products as Red Tractor assured.