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, Mario Draghi

Ministro delle Politiche Agricole Alimentari e Forestali, Stefano Patuanelli

Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare, Roberto Cingolani

Ministero della Salute, Roberto Speranza

Presidente della Camera dei Deputati, Roberto Fico

Presidente del Senato, Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati

In recent years, Essere Animali has disseminated numerous investigations carried out inside intensive farms and slaughterhouses in Italy — some of which involved collaboration with reputable international media — in order to document the conditions of animals raised for food.

During these investigations, carried out by means of thorough monitoring using hidden cameras and workers infiltrated inside farms, violations of animal protection legislation and the regulations of the Criminal Code were carefully filmed.

Essere Animali investigations have revealed:

  • Violence inflicted by factory farm staff while handling animals or when animals resist treatment, such as blows with iron pipes, improper use of electric tasers, lifting “downed cows” using a forklift, and kicking and throwing small animals.
  • Mutilations carried out without anesthesia and analgesia, in the absence of a veterinarian and even beyond the age permitted by law.
  • Systematic tail docking of piglets, an illegal but widespread practice in almost all Italian farms.
  • Animals left to die of starvation or brutally killed by farm workers, without applying the correct guidelines concerning emergency killing of sick animals.
  • Group killings inside slaughterhouses, with animals witnessing the deaths of other individuals, and use of ineffective stunning practices.

Several complaints have been filed to the relevant authorities for these abuses, but the frequency of such episodes is worrying as they were filmed in almost all the farms we visited. These farms were chosen on a sample basis throughout the country, including suppliers of PDO products.

Alongside these legal violations, Essere Animali investigations have also shown breeding types and practices which, although now legal, are the cause of undisputed physical and psychological suffering for animals, including:

  • Use of cages in which animals spend much or all of their lives.
  • High density when animals are raised “on the ground” or in enclosures.
  • Surgical castration of piglets and debeaking of hens.
  • Baby chicks, which are considered useless for breeding purposes, are ground up alive.
  • Separation of calves from their mothers at birth for milk production purposes.

I am therefore calling for a process of legislative reform to be undertaken which:

  • Ban use of cages, even partial use.
  • Ban of any mutilation or killing of male chicks if they are perfectly healthy but considered non-productive by the livestock industry.
  • Stop public subsidies to the livestock sector.
  • Increase penalties for the mistreatment of animals and for other violations, including withdrawal of authorizations and disqualification from activity in the most serious cases.
  • Set up a monitoring system that is more effective than the one currently in use, for farms, during transportation, and in the slaughtering phases.
  • Reconsideration of stocking densities, permitting animals more space to move, even outdoors, and with the inclusion of environmental enrichments.
  • Provides for farming systems that allow animals to meet their ethological needs according to age and species, in consultation with animal rights organizations.
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