A major undercover investigation has revealed what campaigners have branded the 'disturbing and brutal' treatment of pigs.
Animal protection group Viva! put hidden cameras in farm sheds for three weeks to 'reveal the atrocities taking place inside'.
The farms involved were breeding facility Calvesley and fattening and finishing center Whiteshoot. Both are owned by Winterbrook Farm Partners and both have been approved by the consumer assurance scheme Red Tractor, which claims all of their farmers' animals 'have been well cared for'.
'A catalogue of disturbing scenes'
According to Viva!, the footage reveals 'a catalogue of disturbing scenes'. It reports its investigators finding 'a piglet with an enormous growth on its stomach, dumped in a gangway and writhing in pain. The animal had been abandoned, left alone to suffer a slow painful death'.
It says one of the most distressing scenes 'shows a farm worker "knocking" young piglets – killing them by slamming their tiny heads onto the concrete floor', describing this as a 'brutally cruel act which is followed by the worker dumping the bodies aside – presumably because these animals were considered too small to be profitable'.
In addition, Viva! reports pigs confined in cages - a legal practice - but one described by the charity as 'barbaric', and on-site mutilations of piglets including the chopping off of tails without pain relief and the use of pliers to clip away their teeth. It says 'these acts are supposed to prevent tail biting, a behaviour that manifests from distress and lack of stimulation'.
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 Certifications have been suspended and sanctions put in place to address the issues raised through this process."
"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," Viva! founder and director Juliet Gellatley said in a statement sent to Plant Based News.
"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.
"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."
'Not aberrant farms'
Gellatley added that these facilities are 'not aberrant farms' but are 'typical of what is permitted by government and retailers'.
"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," she said.
"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."