Around 60 animal rights activists today (April 1) gathered outside a controversial Warwickshire business at the centre of a bitter row over the state of the UK’s pig farming industry. Campaigners from the Animal Justice Project descended on Bickmarsh Hall farm, south of Bidford-on-Avon, around midday.
Members of the pressure group infiltrated the farm last year during an expose, the findings of which were published earlier this month. They claim to have recorded appalling scenes of animal cruelty between September and November.
Footage allegedly showed pigs lying in cramped squalor with some allegedly left for hours to die. One video allegedly showed a pig being cannibalised, while a shivering and groaning piglet was allegedly trampled on and bitten by others.
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The site is Red Tractor-assured, meaning it belongs to a world-leading food chain assurance scheme that ‘underpins the high standards of British food and drink’. Yet activists say practices at the farm, which rears pigs sold in Asda and Tesco via pork producer Cranswick Country Foods, are some of the worst they have seen.
Carrying placards and banners with imagery from the AJP investigation, animal advocates gave speeches and laid flowers in memory of the pigs housed there. Ahead of the event, Project spokesperson Ayrton Cooper said: “We will be paying tribute to the tens of thousands of pigs who have suffered, and continue to suffer, behind the grim walls of Bickmarsh Hall.
“The pens, barren of any enrichment; pigs so caked in mud and faeces they are unable to stand; wilful neglect and absence of compassion by staff; mother sows confined in crates for weeks on end; bins full of dead pigs; and months of endless boredom and frustration resulting in cannibalism do NOT highlight one ‘bad apple’ of a farm, but the brutal reality for most pigs farmed in Britain today.”
Pens at Bickmarsh allegedly contain no bedding, but this reportedly does not contravene Red Tractor scheme guidelines which reportedly say bedding isn’t required for all pigs. Farrowing crates, still legal in the UK, were allegedly in use on the farm and bins across the farm were allegedly full of dead pigs and piglets.
Rough handling by workers, including hard kicking and slapping, was alleged by the group to be commonplace when workers moved pigs around site and onto trailers. An electric goad is illegally used, Animal Justice Project claims. Workers were also allegedly seen hitting pigs during loading, and ramming the animals with metal doors whilst in already overcrowded pens with nowhere to go.
Ex-pig veterinarian Dr Alice Brough was set to give a talk at the demonstration outlining her experiences of inspecting Red Tractor Assured farms. “Having worked with hundreds of commercial pig farms, I must say that the scenes at Bickmarsh Hall are devastatingly common in the British pig industry,” Dr Brough said.
“The filthy, cramped conditions, the barren cages and the disease – a damning indictment of any assurance schemes in place to retain consumers. People deserve to know what they’re being fed, and the pigs deserve to be free from such profound suffering.”
Red Tractor, which claims that protecting health and welfare ‘is a top priority’, said its own investigation found the farm was in compliance with its animal welfare standards. Bickmarsh Hall was approached for comment.
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