Animal Aid

Unhappy Mother's Day

Posted 19 March 2009

Animal Aid brings a little cheer to the ‘unhappiest mothers in Britain’

Campaigners from national pressure group Animal Aid have this week visited an intensive West Country pig farm in an attempt to bring a little happiness into the otherwise desolate lives of breeding sows. The caring campaigners took apples to the porcine mothers incarcerated in highly restrictive – and extremely controversial – farrowing crates.

Animal Aid was tipped off about the shocking conditions at this large factory unit and has investigated the farm a number of times over the past few weeks. Conditions which outraged the Animal Aid staff members include apparent routine tail docking (which is illegal), no evidence of any environmental enrichment for the growing pigs (also illegal) and a number of dead piglets – some of whom had raw and bloodied faces – dumped in a wheelbarrow.

The sight of pregnant sows and nursing mothers trapped inside farrowing crates so small they cannot turn round or take a step forward or back was particularly heart-breaking. The campaigners decided to do one small thing to make their lives a little better: take them a Mother’s Day treat, and draw the public’s attention to their plight.

Sows used for breeding on intensive British pig farms are repeatedly inseminated. In the later stages of pregnancy, they are incarcerated in barren farrowing crates where they are forced to give birth, and their young are taken from them to be fattened and killed. The cycle continues until the sows are too worn out to produce large litters, and then they, too, are killed.

Says Animal Aid’s Kate Fowler, who led the compassionate team:

‘When allowed, pigs make wonderful mothers – caring, nurturing and attentive. But for these mothers, there is no opportunity to raise and care for their young. They are treated not as sentient beings but as piglet-making machines. We cannot rescue them from this terrible life but if we have been able to bring them even a moment of happiness, then I feel our “guerilla welfare” action has been worthwhile.
‘And on this Mother’s Day, please spare a thought for the unhappiest mothers in Britain and choose meat-free.’

Notes to the Editor:

Additional Information:

  • In the UK, two thirds of breeding sows are kept intensively.
  • Farrowing crates are banned in Switzerland and their use is permitted for just one week in Sweden. British sows are put into the restrictive devices before they give birth and remain there until three to four weeks afterwards.
  • In Sweden, all pigs must have access to straw or other litter material. In many intensive UK farms, including this Dorset one, no straw, litter or any kind of environmental enrichment has been provided. This contravenes European law. (Commission Directive 2001/93/EC, amending Directive 91/630/EEC, which states: ‘pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities, such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such, which does not compromise the health of the animals’.)
  • Despite The Welfare of Farmed Animals Act prohibiting routine tail docking, a 2007 European Food Safety Authority report found that 81 per cent of pigs in the UK were tail docked.

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