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Terrible violence
on farm raising pigs for DOP ham

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One of our undercover investigators was hired on a farm that rears pigs for the production of DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) ham, considered an example of “Italian excellence” and also exported abroad. Using a hidden camera, he documented repeated cruel behaviour by the workers, the brutal killing of piglets and the widespread administration of drugs. The images and footage have been submitted to the competent authorities in order to lodge a complaint against those responsible.

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The images show violence and abuse by the workers while they are moving the animals, who are hit repeatedly on the muzzle with iron bars, chased and grabbed by the ears, dragged for metres along the concrete and finally thrown to the ground. Even sows and piglets are not spared violence. A sow imprisoned in a farrowing crate is kicked, while piglets are literally thrown into a wheelbarrow and in some cases trampled on by the workers’ boots. On several occasions, the investigator also witnessed the killing of sick or weak piglets using hasty methods that are painful for the animals.

Also dramatic are the images showing mutilations such as systematic tail-cutting and, in the case of male piglets, surgical castration. These common operations on farms are carried out on pigs of just a few days old, without the use of anesthetics or pain relief. Some sows enclosed in gestation crates have infections of the reproductive organs, probably a consequence of the continuous births induced by artificial inseminations. Another common practice on factory farms is the widespread use of antibiotics. On this farm, these drugs are given to both piglets and sows in large quantities and without the supervision of a veterinarian.

After years of investigations, we know that these images are not an exception: all of this happens on farms every day behind closed doors. You can help these animals every day, choosing to keep them off your plate.

Download all the investigation’s photos

Daily
violence

While they are being moved, the animals are kicked, hit with iron bars, dragged by the ears and thrown to the ground.

Graphic images Click to watch

Brutal killing of piglets

On several occasions, the investigator saw workers kill weak or sick piglets by beating them on the ground repeatedly. A brutal killing that is not an isolated case, but standard practice on this farm. The piglets die after interminable agony.

Graphic images Click to watch

Cruel practices

Piglets of just a few days old undergo mutilations such as systematic tail-cutting and, for males, surgical castration. These operations are carried out on almost all pigs raised in Italy, without the use of anesthetics or pain relief. On this farm, they are carried out in a rough manner to keep up with the fast pace of production, thus causing acute suffering to the animals. Sows are cyclically inseminated: the continuous births and critical sanitary conditions cause serious infections of their reproductive organs.

Widespread administration of drugs

In a production system that is geared towards maximum production, the use of large doses of antibiotics, restorative vaccines and supplements is necessary to counteract the spread of diseases. On this farm the administration of drugs is entrusted to the inexperienced workers, without the pigs being examined by a veterinarian beforehand.

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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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