Farmer convicted after our investigation

Simone Montuschi

Criminal conviction of a farmer in Reggio Emilia, who was forced to pay a penalty and clean up the land surrounding the farm, where our investigation team – following a report – filmed carcasses of pigs and waste containing asbestos.

The news of the criminal conviction issued against the farmer in Reggio Emilia, forced to clean up the land adjacent to his farm, once again confirms the importance of our investigative work. Our investigations, in addition to making millions of people aware of the conditions in which animals are forced to live on factory farms, lead to legal interventions and concrete consequences.

At the same time, this matter reiterates the need to report possible crimes – such as abuse, environmental pollution, food fraud, labour exploitation and health problems – that we know occur frequently on farms. For this reason, we have taken action by creating the first website in Italy through which reports of this type can be made. 

What happened: 2017-2021

In the autumn of 2017 we received a report informing us of a possible illegality at a factory farm located in Cadelbosco di Sopra, in the province of Reggio Emilia. That same evening, our investigation team went to the site and documented the presence of decomposing pigs illegally abandoned outside the farm as well as waste containing asbestos.

The presence of the carcasses was also confirmed by the Carabinieri Forestali (Forestry Corps), who carried out an inspection following our complaint. A criminal conviction was issued against the farmer, forcing him to pay 8,500 euros for the crime referred to in art. 256 paragraph 2 of Legislative Decree 152/06, in relation to art. 256 paragraph 1 lett. a) and b) because, “as the owner of the farm of the same name, he deposited hazardous and non-hazardous waste in the area pertaining to pig farming in an uncontrolled manner.”

Abandonment of carcasses: a frequent crime on farms

Abandoning the carcasses of animals outside farms is an illegal operation that is presumably carried out to avoid paying the disposal costs, but which endangers public health.

Pursuant to Regulation (EC) No. 1069/2009 that specifies the health regulations concerning animal by-products, carcasses not intended for human consumption are considered ‘animal by-products’ and must be stored in suitable cold rooms and disposed of as soon as possible by sending them to incineration or co-incineration plants.

Not only can this illegal act cause environmental damage, compromise air quality and pollute groundwater, it can also trigger zoonotic diseases, i.e. infectious animal diseases that are communicable to humans.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have documented this practice. In February 2019 we discovered a true open-air cemetery outside a large pig and cattle farm, with dozens of pigs and a decaying headless calf.

In addition, in August 2020, thanks to several inspections carried out over the course of several days (also with the use of a drone), we filmed dozens of bodies abandoned outside in a dumpster. The carcasses, including some intact skeletons of dead animals that had been abandoned for months, protruded from the edge of the dumpster, releasing body fluids from the decomposition process into the surrounding soil.

The importance of reports for our investigative work

In addition to showing the readiness of our investigation team to gather clear evidence of the ongoing illegal acts, this news is an example of how valuable reports from private citizens are for our investigative work.

On several occasions, our investigators have taken action after receiving information from people who had noticed illegal acts on farms. For this reason, we decided to make it easier to report any illegalities by creating the first website in Italy that collects information on animal abuse in factory farms and slaughterhouses, as well as environmental crimes and fraud in the trade.

A project that aims to help citizens report crimes which come to their attention and provide law enforcement agencies with concrete indications for targeted interventions.