Two weeks ago, late at night, the Veganuary team visited a pig farm…
We wanted to see for ourselves what life is like for farmed pigs in Britain.
This farm was chosen randomly – a small, local farm in Yorkshire (UK). We entered through unlocked doors and took all the necessary biohazard precautions. Between us, we have watched a lot of investigative footage, but nothing could prepare us for the misery of that night. The video below does not include any slaughter, but it is upsetting. We recommend that you do not watch it at work.
The farm was filthy. In every shed we found dead piglets – maggots and rats attacking their little bodies. In the only shed where we saw living piglets, many were obviously dying; unable to find warmth and with no strength to suckle. Their mothers were locked in ‘farrowing crates’, unable to turn around or help their struggling babies. (This is completely legal and used widely on UK farms when mother pigs give birth. She is separated from her babies by metal bars and cannot perform any natural maternal care apart from nursing them.)
Imprisoned in the filthy crates, the female pigs showed obvious signs of neglect – the majority were far too thin and many had sores and open wounds. The lack of living piglets (and the swollen teats of the mother pigs) suggested that many had already given birth and those babies had been weaned. (It is illegal to keep pigs in farrowing crates once their piglets have been taken away to be fattened, but unannounced government inspections are exceptionally rare so welfare laws are regularly flouted.) Outside the sheds, we found an old grain sack propped up against the wall. It was filled with the rotting bodies of other dead piglets. Everywhere we looked there was misery.
We had to throw away the clothes and shoes we wore that night. And we’re haunted by the fact that the pigs are still there, and that we had to leave them…
Our combined actions can prevent more animals from suffering in this way. Individually we have a choice, and collectively we have the strength to change things for the better. Every piglet we saw that night was just as sweet and innocent as Ernie in our #LetsMakeLondonVegan campaign, and just as deserving of life.
The farm we visited the other night is not ‘an exception’, it is not unusual. What we witnessed is standard on British farms, and very much common practice. The meat, egg and dairy industries view animals as money-making machines. They are used until they can give no more, and then they are simply thrown away.