New investigation into a farm supplying ‘premium’ Parma ham

© Essere Animali


New investigation into a farm supplying ‘premium’ Parma ham

Brenda Ferretti
Campaigns manager

Today we are publishing new shock images from a farm that show mistreatment and systemic problems on pig farms in Italy, such as the illegal killing of piglets on the farm, the confinement of sows in a cage and beatings and violence against sows and piglets.

Sows and piglets hit with a stick and metal pliers, a worker killing a piglet by slamming it into the gate of a farrowing cage, sows confined in cages with signs of stress and suffering, mutilation without anaesthesia, violent movement operations. This is what the shocking images show on a farm in the province of Cuneo, which turns out to be part of the Consorzio Prosciutto di Parma circuit.

What we documented is the focus of a video narrated by the journalist Selvaggia Lucarelli who, with her reflections on what happens on this farm, accompanies the work of our investigation and documentation of the cruelty of intensive pig farming.

Watch the investigation

What we documented

The images speak for themselves:

  • At the time of branding and marking, both sows and piglets are struck repeatedly. This is an illegal practice because it causes acute and avoidable suffering and causes animals to be constantly afraid of the staff;
  • A worker kills a piglet by slamming it into the gate of a farrowing cage. This is also illegal because it does not comply with the killing procedure so as not to cause unnecessary suffering to the animals;
  • The sows show serious signs of stress and stereotyped behaviours due to the extreme condition of confinement without any possibility of expressing their natural needs. Some sows have injuries due to the fixed and immobile position which they are forced to adopt because of the cages;
  • The workers do not use non-slip ramps when the sows leave the cages, thereby forcing animals who have been immobilised for more than a month to jump. Many are unable to do so correctly. The images show some sows falling to the ground and then limping conspicuously;
  • Piglets are castrated and have their tail mutilated with no disinfectant, anaesthetic or pain relief and the gloves used by the operators are still dirty from the ink used for branding, thus risking infecting the wound;
  • Pigs are grabbed by the ears and by the legs below the knee, with the risk of causing injuries and/or fractures. The workers then literally throw the animals, an illegal and inexplicable practice because in addition to causing acute suffering to the animals, it is also counterproductive for the farmer. This is an indication of poor staff training.
This is the usual practice of how the animals were moved.
© Essere Animali

We reported the farm for the alleged crimes of animal abuse, art. 544 ter of the Italian Criminal Code, and abandonment of animals, art. 727, paragraph 2 of the Italian Criminal Code. This new evidence of the problems in the Italian supply chain comes a few weeks after the scandal that has affected other farms in the Prosciutto di Parma circuit, documented by Report on Rai 3.

Our campaign for pigs

With our investigations and the SOS Pig campaign, we have long documented and denounced the problems of pig farms in Italy, often associated with the “excellence” of the Made in Italy label but where violence, illegality and legal practices that violate the welfare of animals – such as the cage breeding of sows – have been repeatedly documented. The petition, which is addressed to food companies, has exceeded 160,000 signatures and calls on the main brands of pig products to intervene to eliminate the use of cages for sows and mutilations for piglets.

10 million pigs are raised and slaughtered in Italy and undergo mutilation of the tail and, in the case of males, castration without anaesthetic or pain relief. During pregnancy, birth and suckling, 500,000 sows are kept in cages so small that they cannot move at all. Such practices cause extreme suffering to these intelligent and sensitive animals and, in the case of routine tail-cutting, are also in violation of EU directives. Unfortunately, however, they are widespread on almost all Italian farms (including PDO circuits).

The practice of confining sows in cages will also be the subject of the EU Commission’s proposal to revise the European legislation, which already made a clear commitment in 2021 in this regard, as well as being identified by an EFSA opinion in 2022 as a practice that is harmful to animal welfare.

The industry must move away from cruel practices

As we have been reporting for years, the Italian pig sector unfortunately has systemic problems that cause serious suffering to animals. Faced with the demand of millions of citizens for greater protection for animals, a dialogue between NGOs, companies and institutions is needed, with the aim of reaching widespread policies that address the crucial problems facing the sector – such as the use of cages, on which the European Commission has already announced a ban – but also routine mutilation.

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