Vegan activists have denied killing two piglets during a March 2 action at Sandilands Farm in Lincolnshire.
The farm's co-owner, Sylvia Hook, told multiple media outlets that the animals were 'crushed to death' - an accusation campaigners refute, citing video evidence showing that the animals were dead before they entered the premises.
The aim of the event - the UK's first 'Meat The Victims' action - was to publicize how farms are run, and to raise public awareness of how animals in these facilities are treated. Organizers for Meat The Victims (MTV) told Plant Based News that farms are 'not picked for their high or low welfare, but rather to show a standard representation of a typical pig farm'.
'Meating' the victims
Around 200 activists took part in the action, with about half entering the farm facility, with the objective of staying inside until the mainstream media arrived to further document and publicize the plight of UK farm animals.
"They also wanted to obtain as much footage of the facility as possible, with video phones and cameras, to share on social media and then later with news organizations," an MTV spokesperson told PBN.
The other 100 people waited outside to stand in solidarity with the inside team, showcasing banners, signs, and flags with animal rights messages on them to illustrate why they are vegan, and how animals are used by the food industry.
"For this peaceful, non-violent direct action, both teams were briefed on conduct and how the demonstration would go," the spokesperson added.
"The inside team wore cross contamination bio-security suits that went above industry standards to avoid any allegations of cross-contaminating the facility. Activists put these over their own clothes before walking down the path towards the unit, and then just before entering, put foot covers on their shoes too."
In addition, some wore biosecurity masks (similar to SARS masks), which the organization says was 'for their own safety due to the high concentration of ammonia fumes that were expected inside the barn' and which can cause immediate and/or long term breathing difficulties.
"Activists walked peacefully and slowly up the path towards the barn, holding flowers in their hands above their heads as a sign of respect to the animals who were imprisoned in the barns," said MTV organizers. "Once activists reached the door to the barn, flowers were laid down before the door on the outside.
"With approximately 50+ live streams' and countless other videos, activists documented their movements exactly, and also documented when the farm hands arrived. Half of the activists had slowly entered the facility at this time, as the farm hands attempted to block the doors and to stop people from entering.
"Due to the barn having three doors, when people experienced a blockage on one door, people simply redirected to another door and continued to enter slowly and calmly, spreading out on the inside to the three corridors of the barns."
Activist Chris Hines, who attended the event, was interviewed by the BBC about it
Talking about the activists entering the shed, farm co-owner Sylvia Hook told BBC Look North: "The sows were very stressed initially with all the noise and the commotion, jumping up and down, squashing piglets, causing general havoc.
"They were picking piglets up, cuddling them – there was a lot of screaming going on. Piglets don't want to be cuddled. Then, unfortunately, they were putting the piglets back in the wrong pens.
"Because it was such a long period of time we were not able to fulfill our caring duties to the animals. We could not get in to feed them as our barrow is the width of the passage."
Dead and dying piglets
However, Meat the Victim organizers told PBN that they found multiple sick and dying piglets inside the facility, and they told Hook about them, adding that the animals had been clearly documented as being found in that state on arrival. She was directed to one of the dead piglets and later redirected to another sick piglet.
"She was told by one of the activists who is a vet nurse that the piglet was limping and needed veterinary care. Hook was heard saying 'pick 'it' up then', and was filmed taking the animal outside, holding him/her by the ankle and swinging him/her round."
Hook has told media a different story, telling Lincolnshire Live that the activists 'terrified' her family.
"About 50 of them all piled into a farrowing house, immediately the sows are jumping up and down," she claimed.
"It's caused the death of two young piglets through being squashed and two other piglets have had to be taken away to get up and running again."
'Emotional and aggressive'
"I understand why the farmer would be emotional and aggressive towards us, I understand why she might feel angry," event organizer Wesley Omar told PBN. "This is probably the first time that she has ever had her moral reasoning questioned, and the first time that her practices and the way she produces an income have been challenged.
"For me, the most confounding event from the day was not the sheer disdain Sylvia Hook showed towards the pigs. She called them 'it', and held a weeks-old piglet upside down by his/her ankles, while the piglet was squalling. She also turned off the water supply to the pigs. But more surprising to me were the disingenuous claims she shared with the media and public.
"Not only are these pigs being violated in my opinion, but Hook has attempted to manipulate the integrity of the public with these claims, despite footage showing what actually happened. I feel it is important to raise these points as a counterpoint to reports in the popular media."
'Not an animal lover'
"It was clear from the offset that Sylvia Hook was not the animal lover she professed to be," added fellow organizer Amy Atkinson.
"Meat The Victims' objective is to show the truth of what happens to the animals, and to be as transparent as the farming industry itself proclaims to be. The people who were part of the inside and outside team for MTV are people who are just like you and I, only they have found out the truth behind the animal agricultural industry, and now tirelessly dedicate their free time to raising awareness as to what happens to the animals behind closed doors.
"They have all reconnected to their animal-loving side, by realizing that it is a contradiction to say you love animals, and then pay for someone to send them to a house of slaughter after being 'farmed' their whole lives."
Lincolnshire Police attended the protest, releasing an official statement saying: "We are in attendance at Sandilands Farm, Newark Road, Laughterton, where a protest is taking place," an official Lincolnshire Police statement said of the event.
"We have a positive obligation to facilitate lawful peaceful protest and officers will remain on the scene until the protest has concluded."
Though police attendance at the protest was described as 'heavy', no arrests were made.