Animal Aid

Freedom Food exposed again

Posted 19 September 2011

Hillside Animal Sanctuary has exposed sickening scenes of pigs knee deep in filth - yards from piles of maggot-infested carcasses. The secret filming, shot over six weeks, took place at a Norfolk farm signed up to the RSPCA-approved Freedom Food scheme, which is meant to guarantee higher animal welfare standards than the average factory farm. These pigs only leave the squalid barn to be slaughtered and processed for companies such as Tesco.

Members of the Freedom Food scheme are supposed to be inspected annually by experts and spot checks are regularly carried out. Freedom Food says it imposes RSPCA welfare standards, which insist each pig has a good diet, a spacious environment and 24-hour access to dry bedding. This farm has since been suspended by the scheme and its products banned from Tesco.

Hillside’s investigator said: 'Thousands of distressed pigs were sleeping in their own filth. There was no sign of dry space - just a pool of slurry. A few yards away was a huge bin full of dead pigs swarming with maggots that spilled out on to the barn floor.'

This is not the first time that suffering has been exposed on a Freedom Food farm. In 2008, following an Animal Aid investigation, a chicken farm in Somerset was suspended from the scheme. On three visits Animal Aid found numerous chickens immobilised and often dying from hunger, because agonising leg and hip injuries prevented them from reaching feed and water stations.

More recently, a Freedom Food approved slaughterhouse - Cheale Meats - was thrown off the scheme when Animal Aid revealed that workers were burning pigs with cigarettes, and punching, kicking and beating the animals.

The public has been encouraged to believe that it can set aside its growing concerns about the suffering of farmed animals by buying so called ‘high welfare’ animal products, such as those produced under the Freedom Food label. But Freedom Food animals are not free and they are not content. Many of the animals, like the pigs filmed by Hillside, suffer slow, agonising deaths within a gigantic, soulless factory unit. For so long as animals are treated as commodities - to be mass-produced and slaughtered for food - they will suffer. It doesn’t matter how their carcases are labelled.

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