A French pig farm connected to several major British supermarket chains has been accused of animal cruelty following the release of new covert footage. In light of the investigation, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, and Iceland have been urged to stop selling Herta Frankfurters.
Animal welfare group L214 captured the footage on a farm in the north of France throughout August and September. The farm keeps more than 20,000 pigs captive, and is contracted to supply Herta. The world’s largest food company, Nestlé, owns 40 percent of the Herta brand.
The investigation uncovered consistent violations of animal welfare regulations on the farm. This included slamming weak piglets on the floor to kill them, not giving pregnant sows in cages permanent access to water, and castrating male piglets by ripping off the tissue – without anesthetic.
Workers also clipped piglets’ teeth with pliers, despite not trying other measures to prevent tail biting amongst the animals. Farmers docked all piglets’ tails, which is forbidden to do on a regular basis, and were seen beating sows.
Further, pigs were living in cramped sow stalls, barely able to move. Sow stalls have been banned in the UK since 1999, but are still legal in France during part of the gestation period.
Improper antibiotic use was also documented, despite claims from the company that owns the farm that its pork is produced without them.
But in fact, the farm was using apramycin, lincomycin, and colistin. The latter is considered a “last resort” measure, and has been banned by Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Overuse of antibiotics in the animal food system has been linked to antibiotic resistance, both in animals and humans.
It’s not the first time Herta’s farming practices have landed the company in hot water.
Last year, L214 released a separate exposé which documented similar cases of animal abuse. As such, Waitrose announced a ban of the Herta brand, affirming that the supermarket honors “high animal welfare standards and our standards around the use of antibiotics.”
CEO of British animal welfare charity Open Cages, Connor Jackson, called on other supermarket chains to follow suit.
“This is the second time that footage has revealed the depravity and neglect hiding behind Herta’s promises of high welfare,” Jackson commented. “Not only are UK retailers choosing to fall for these blatant lies through a lack of vigilance towards low welfare imports, that deception is suffered by the British consumer who is unknowingly buying meat from animals who have been beaten, tormented and pumped full of antibiotics.”
“Waitrose did the right thing by dropping Herta from its shelves, and we are urging Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda and Iceland to do the same immediately,” they added. “Selling animal products reared in conditions which would be illegal in Britain suggests that animal welfare is not a top priority for these companies, but rather making a profit wherever they can. I hope I’m wrong.”
A spokesperson for Nestlé voiced disapproval of the findings. “We do not tolerate animal welfare abuses anywhere in our supply chain. The scenes shown in this video are unacceptable,” they said. “We have contacted Herta to ask them to investigate this farm as a matter of urgency and take the necessary action as needed.”