You have to put that in the perspective of the fact that we have 50,000 farmers doing a fantastic job day in, day out.
Footage of pigs being neglected and abused at a Leicestershire farm had damaged the reputation of the Red Tractor certification scheme, its chief executive has admitted.
The footage was shot by Vegan group Viva! Campaigns over four months this year. Hidden cameras revealed multiple atrocities, including emaciated pigs, lack of care for sick or dying animals, feral cats feeding on weak and dead piglets and workers treating animals aggressively.
Flat House Farm, owned by Elvidge Farms Ltd, houses around 8,000 pigs and 800 breeding sows. The undercover team discovered animals with a range of serious ailments causing acute pain including bleeding hernias, deformed trotters, prolapses, rectal strictures and pot bellies.
Other animals were covered in lacerations and grotesque bites, injuries inflicted on them by other pigs who are driven to insanity by the barren environment. Young animals had been left to die in cells. Dead and dying animals had been pulled into the walkways and left to rot.
Investigators also found fly infestations leaving the pigs’ feeding troughs covered in maggots. The whole site was “dilapidated, unsanitary and covered in filth,” they said.
The farm was part of the consumer assurance scheme Red Tractor, which claims all of their farmers’ animals have been well cared for. Speaking to BBC Farming Today, Jim Moseley said that auditors from Red Tractor had been concerned about the farm since an inspection in March, and was planning to follow this up with unannounced visit, he said.
However, Viva’s footage was sent to Red Tractor before it carried this out, and the farm’s certification was then terminated, he said.
"There seems to be a feeling that Red Tractor only acts when it gets footage, but that couldn't be further from the truth, we pick up a lots of breaches of our standards ourselves," he said.
Red Tractor expelled 247 farmers from the scheme for breaches last year, he said.
“To put that in the perspective, we have 50,000 farmers doing a fantastic job day in, day out,” he added.
The RSCPA said: “We were very concerned about the footage, in particular it showed a number of pigs who appeared to be suffering with severe injuries and injuries requiring urgent treatment, underweight pigs, poor carcass disposal practices and stock-keepers striking pigs.”
Video and photos from the investigation can be found here.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.