‘Grave Mark On Humanity’: UK Pig Farm Investigation Unearths ‘Harrowing’ Abuse

Animal Justice Project has shared the “harrowing” results of their three-month investigation


5 Minutes Read

Pigs in squalid conditions at Bickmarsh Hall farm in Warwickshire Animal rights campaigners claim the farm was breaking welfare regulations - Media Credit: Animal Justice Project

An investigation into a UK pig farm has uncovered what campaigners say is among “the worst” conditions they’ve ever seen.

Animal Justice Project spent three months filming in Bickmarsh Hall, a Red Tractor-approved farm in Warwickshire, England. The farm rears pigs for Cranswick Country Foods, one of the UK’s leading fresh pork producers. The company supplies to supermarkets including Asda, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and Morrisons. 

Bickmarsh Hall is one of the UK’s growing number of “mega farms,” and intensively rears 8,000 pigs and piglets in 46 sheds. By the US definition, “mega farms” are those that hold more than 2,500 pigs at a time. 

One bit of footage shows a piglet shivering and groaning while laying on a concrete floor. They appeared to only be able to slide around in a slow circular motion. The animal was left to suffer for 13 hours while being trodden on and bitten by other piglets before a member of staff took them away.

According to Animal Justice Project, this is a potential breach of the Animal Welfare Act (2006), the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations (2007), and Red Tractor guidelines. These state that animals on farms should not be left to suffer. 

Other findings at the farm

In another clip, a pig with a bloody rectal prolapse was seen being cannibalized by other animals in their pen. Cannibalism is not an issue in wild pigs, but it arises on intensive farms due to the mental impact their living conditions have on them. A staff member removed the pig from the pen five hours after they were first seen on camera.

Other pigs were seen unable to walk from apparent lameness. Some were unable to bear weight on all four legs as they were loaded up for the slaughterhouse. 

Warning: the below gallery contains photos of animal abuse that some may find upsetting

  • A dead pig in a bin at a Bickmarsh Hall farm in Warwickshire
  • A dead pig in a bin at a Bickmarsh Hall farm in Warwickshire
  • Piglets at Bickmarsh Hall farm in Warwickshire
  • A pig with a bloody rectal prolapse at Bickmarsh Hall farm in Warwickshire
  • A pig with a bloody rectal prolapse at Bickmarsh Hall farm in Warwickshire

Farrowing crates, which are both legal and acceptable under Red Tractor standards, were used at the farm. These are cages that sows (female pigs) are kept in for up to six weeks after giving birth. They offer her no room to turn around, and her piglets nurse from a small area next to her known as “the creep.”

Workers were seen slapping and kicking pigs. Animal Justice Project also claims that an electric goad was illegally used. Pigs were rammed with metal doors while already in overcrowded pens, when they had nowhere to go. Dead pigs were seen in bins throughout the farm.

Animal rights campaigners slam the farm

Actor and animal activist Peter Egan is among those to have spoken out against the farm. 

“Despite having witnessed many harrowing scenes of animal cruelty, I’ve found the video taken at Bickmarsh Hall farm particularly heart-breaking,” he said in a statement. “To see such intelligent and sensitive animals being so horrifically abused, from being hit, kicked, left to die, living in filth, and incarcerated in cages, reveals a callous industry that leaves a grave mark on humanity.”

Dr Alice Brough, a former pig veterinarian turned whistleblower against Red Tractor and the pork industry, said: “This farm is the epitome of squalor, and unfortunately represents the norm for a large proportion of Britain’s pig farms.

“Pigs are forced to live in filthy, wet, bare concrete pens, completely covered in their own urine and faeces with no respite. These are naturally extremely hygienic animals, and these cramped, dirty and very poorly enriched conditions are undoubtedly causing both physiological and psychological damage.”

Will the farm face consequences?

Animal Justice Project has sent the footage to UK authorities, but it told Plant Based News (PBN) it doesn’t anticipate anything to change.

“We sent our findings to the government as we always do,” Claire Palmer, the organization’s founder said. “Sadly, however, even when faced with the most blatant law breaking within farms and slaughterhouses, the response is always unsatisfactory.

“The general narrative varies very little – there is an ‘investigation,’ maybe a suspension, or maybe blame is put on the infiltrators. Sometimes there is nothing at all from the authorities. In all cases, the exploitation and abuse continues.”

While Palmer’s words may come as a surprise to some, it’s actually extremely rare for farms to face consequences when abuse like this is discovered. A study published last year found that less than three percent of the UK’s approximately 291,000 farms were inspected annually between 2018 and 2021. 

Researchers also found that 0.33 percent of complaints made led to prosecutions of animal cruelty. 

The rise of UK ‘mega farms’

Bickmarsh Hall is just one of a number of similar farms in the UK, and pigs aren’t the only animals housed in them. 

Last summer, a Guardian investigation found that there are now at least 1,099 “mega farms” dotted across the UK. Some of these facilities hold over a million animals at a time. Broiler chickens, egg-laying hens, dairy cows, beef cows, and pigs are all animals regularly raised in these farms. 

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