Pigs injured and immersed in sewage: farm supplier of PDO ham reported

© Essere Animali

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Pigs injured and immersed in sewage: farm supplier of PDO ham reported



Simone Montuschi
President

Our latest investigation into a pig farm destined for the production of PDO ham in the Lodi area shows very serious mistreatment, cruelty, and sanitation problems.

Watch the investigation

During a first visit into the pig farm located in the municipality of Sant’Angelo, our investigators documented a critical situation, primarily due to the accumulation of hundreds of piglet carcasses which had been disposed of illegally. In light of this situation, the investigators decided to place a hidden camera inside one of the company’s warehouses.

What we have documented

Images recorded by investigators during their first visit show animals with wounds and injuries, and dozens of buckets containing the corpses of piglets abandoned in front of cages and outside the farm. Inside the farrowing cages there were dead and dying piglets, some with their legs or other body parts wedged into the structure and flooring. At a structural and health level, the breeding was heavily neglected, without environmental enrichments and with various parts dangerous and in ruins. This could explain both the presence of injured animals and the high mortality of piglets. The hygiene failures are also very obvious: animals forced to live in their manure, and the widespread presence of rats. Many pigs had their tails mutilated, which is illegal if carried out systematically.

During birth, a piglet got stuck in the damaged cage door.
© Essere Animali

The videos taken by the hidden camera show further problems, some of which are illegal, and in this case mainly involve farm staff: a worker who kills two piglets by banging them violently against the wall; some staff members who brutally handle some piglets, inadequately grabbing them by the paws and throwing them into the pens; and a worker laying the testicles of a newly neutered piglets in the sow’s manger.

A worker kills two debilitated piglets by banging them violently against the wall. Suppressing animals in this way is illegal, because there is no certainty of causing instant and pain-free death.

Our report and the authorities check

After our inspections, we sent a report to Cremona NAS (Commodities and Health Unit of the Italian police), while a subsequent check by ATS (Health Protection Agency) in Milan confirmed various urgent issues relating to animal welfare, such as the presence of 20 pigs with lameness and “serious” injuries, and 20 with “minor” injuries which, instead of being hospitalized in an area used as an infirmary, were left in the enclosures together with the other animals.

In this shed, the authorities found that all 125 animals were covered in faeces. Pigs should have access to clean and dry areas where they can lie down.
© Essere Animali

The authorities have issued prescriptions, such as the mandate to move sick animals, improve sewage disposal, install environmental enrichments, replace damaged parts of structures capable of injuring animals, and change some unsuitable flooring. With regard to the violent behavior of the operators, we filed a complaint with the Lodi Public Prosecutor’s Office against the legal representative and the workers involved for the crimes of killing animals (544 bis of the criminal code) and mistreatment of animals (544 ter of the criminal code).

This system must change

The situation that our investigators found in the Sant’Angelo Lodigiano pig farm is by no means an exception in the intensive farming system.

In the last two years alone, Essere Animali investigative work has led to reports of nine farms: it is clear that these are not isolated cases.

As such, we ask the Italian Parliament and Government to intervene urgently to change the current system of controls on farms, because it is clear that there are many offenses that escape official inspections. Furthermore, we think it is essential to start a path that facilitates the abandonment of intensive production methods towards more sustainable systems.

WE WANT A REFORM OF ANIMAL PROTECTION LAWS

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FOR A REFORM OF ANIMAL PROTECTION LAWS

Directed to

Presidente del Consiglio

Ministro dell’Agricoltura e della Sovranità alimentare

Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Sicurezza Energetica

Ministero della Salute

In recent years Essere Animali has published several investigations carried out inside Italian factory farms and slaughterhouses, some realized in collaboration with important and influential Italian and international media, in order to document and denounce the conditions of animals bred for food to the Italian judicial authorities and institutions. During these investigations, violations of animal protection laws and criminal code regulations were filmed.

Essere Animali investigations have revealed:

  • violence inflicted by farm staff, such as blows with iron pipes on delicate and innervated points, improper use of electric tasers, lifting cows to the ground with a forklift truck, kicking and throwing small animals;
  • mutilations carried out without the use of anaesthesia and analgesia, without the presence of a veterinary, on animals over the age allowed by law, and the systematic cutting off of piglets’ tails, a practice that is illegal but widespread on almost all Italian farms;
  • agonising animals left to die of starvation or killed in a brutal manner by farm workers, without the application of the correct provisions on the emergency slaughter of sick animals;
  • animals transported for up to 30 hours in unsuitable means of transport, in distress and subjected to violence during loading and unloading;
  • animals subjected to group slaughter instead of being killed individually so that they do not see the death of their fellow animals, stunned in an inappropriate manner and with death occurring in agony.

Several complaints have been filed with the competent authorities for these mistreatments, but the frequency of such episodes, filmed in almost all of the farms under investigation chosen on a random basis throughout the country, even among suppliers of DOP products, prompts me to express my deep concern.
In addition to these law violations, Essere Animali’s investigations have also shown types and practices of livestock farming that, although now legal, cause unquestionable physical and psychological suffering to animals, thus intrinsically violating respect for the welfare of animals on farms, including:

  • use of cages in which animals spend most or all of their lives;
  • high densities when animals are reared ‘on the ground’ or in pens;
  • surgical castration of piglets and deboning of hens;
  • separation at birth of mothers from pups for milk production;
  • forced genetic selection, which produces animals with characteristics intrinsically contrary to animal welfare, such as fast-growing breeds.

I therefore call for a process of legislative reform that will:

  • progressively prohibits the use of cages;
  • prohibits all mutilation;
  • puts an end to public subsidies to the livestock sector;
  • brings about the tightening of sanctions for the mistreatment of animals and other violations of protection regulations, providing for the revocation of licence and banning from activity in the most serious cases;
  • establishes a control system on farms, during transport and at slaughterhouses that is absolutely more effective than the one adopted to date, with the use of CCTV cameras with AI systems and unannounced independent checks by public veterinary staff;
  • reformulates stocking densities, giving animals more space to move around, including outdoors, and adequate environmental enrichment;
  • ensures public funding for more sustainable food production and activities such as plant-based production and works to reduce the suffering of animals that will still be confined to slaughterhouses and farms in the coming years.
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