Thousands of pigs reared for Parma ham sold in the UK are subjected to horrific - and illegal - conditions on farms, according to a new investigation.
Undercover footage was obtained by Italian group Lega Anti Vivisezione [LAV] at six intensive facilities housing up to 10,000 pigs each in the provinces of Brescia, Cremona and Mantua in Lombardy, in the north of Italy.
Investigators discovered animals living in squalid, crowded buildings, suffering from untreated illnesses, and going through illegal (under EU rules) tail docking procedures.
The poor conditions - which have been described as 'appalling' by campaigners, included insufficient ventilation and water in some facilities, rotting, dead animals left alongside live ones, and no bedding or stimulation for the pigs.
In all facilities filmed, the animals were confined indoors.
These conditions breach EU law, under which pigs must have 'permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities, such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture'.
Sean Gifford, Spokesperson for welfare charity Compassion in World Farming, said: "The conditions seen on these farms are cruel and in many cases illegal. These pigs are not being treated as sentient beings, but as mere meat-producing machines.
"Sadly, the appalling conditions revealed in the footage are typical of the shocking reality for many pigs farmed in the EU.
"The terrible plight of these pigs highlights the need for pig welfare standards to be implemented in Italy and across the EU."
Isobel Hutchinson, Director of UK animal protection group Animal Aid told PBN: "This shocking footage epitomises the horrific cruelty involved in animal farming. And consumers should be aware that pigs farmed in the UK suffer terribly too.
"We have filmed inside many pig farms over the years and have been appalled at our findings. We have repeatedly filmed sick animals, dead animals left to rot, and animals forced to live in bleak, soul-destroying conditions.
"We would urge anyone who cares about animals to withdraw their funding from the cruel farming industry and go vegan."
PBN has contacted Parma Ham organization - Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma - and will update this story if there is a response.