Animal welfare officers are looking into a mass culling of pigs after footage was released showing them being corralled into makeshift pens and shot.
The farm, located in Norfolk, UK, was investigated for a potential foot and mouth outbreak on June 23. Subsequently, it was cleared by government vets the next day.
Following the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ conclusion, farm owners chose to kill between 10-15 pigs by shooting them.
The shooting of farm animals is subject to stringent welfare laws that animal rights campaigners claim have been breached.
This is the crux of the RSPCA’s current investigation. Advocates for Animals, the UK’s first animal law firm, is also investigating potential breaches of the Animal Welfare Act.
Was it legal to cull the farm animals?
Assured Food Standards, which licenses the Red Tractor quality mark, recommends that killing take place away from other animals. It does so to “limit distress.”
However, drone footage shows around 15 pigs being forced into hay bale pens and shot in front of each other. Many do not die from a single gunshot and are seen writhing and convulsing on the ground.
Animal rights activists are calling the move a “blatant breach of animal welfare rules set out to ensure animals die humanely.”
RSPCA Assured has viewed the footage. It told the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) that it is “difficult for us to tell from the aerial footage whether all the correct regulations and RSPCA welfare standards were followed.”
“This footage is deeply distressing to watch,” Rebecca Lenik, senior public relations manager for the RSPCA Assured scheme said.
“However, sadly there are sometimes occasions when it’s necessary to humanely cull animals in certain circumstances to prevent the spread of disease, or potential disease, which we understand was the case in this situation.”
With the legality of the methodology shrouded in doubt, the organization has suspended the farm in question from its assurance scheme, which seeks to guarantee farm animal and chicken welfare.
The owner of the farm, the Wayland Farms Group, claims they have acted within the confines of the law. The company claims to be one of the highest welfare pig producers in the UK and says the cull was legal. Moreover, it was carried out in accordance with advice from and under the supervision of vets.
Exposing farm cruelty
The damning drone footage was provided by activists funded by Ecotricity. The green energy supplier has supported a number of secret farm investigations to expose the treatment of animals on farms.
“Forget the farming idyll of the meat marketing industry – farms are not safe for animals,” Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said in a statement.
“Again and again, we see evidence of the most awful treatment of animals on farms. Some of it is allowed by the rules (incredibly), and some of it is not. This brutal murder of pigs by a shotgun is something else.”
He concluded: “Animals are a food choice we don’t need to make – animal farming is driving the climate crisis, multiple human health crises, and global wildlife extinction. It makes no sense. It certainly makes no economic sense – we get far less food from animals than we feed to them.”
Investigations into the pig cull are ongoing from Advocates for Animals, the RSPCA, and Norfolk County Council Trading Standards