Meryl Ward is a director of Ermine Farms Ltd, which encompasses Grayingham Grange Farm and Sandhouse Farm. The business comprises 2000 sows and finished pigs. Her current roles include BPEX director, treasurer of the British Pig Industry Support Group, a member of the government advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council and she is a governor of Harper Adams University College.
Farrowing crates are used here. Some have slatted floors, which mark the mothers’ skin. There is no bedding. Other farrowing pens had solid concrete floors and a few strands of straw.
When not incarcerated in the farrowing crates, sows used for breeding are kept in groups and live on straw. Either the straw or the music blasting from a radio seems to calm these pigs. A large red cross painted on her back indicates that one sow will soon be destroyed.
A number of different buildings house ‘fattening’ pigs. Some live in barren concrete pens on slatted floors. These pigs have no bedding and there is no sign of any enrichment at all.
Other sheds house large numbers of young pigs. In these, the floor was covered by a thick layer of faeces and the pigs were filthy from head to trotter. A sleeping area towards the rear of the shed appeared dry.
A third type of shed looked to be the most makeshift of all. Old-fashioned sties made from an arc of corrugated metal keep young gilts in crowded conditions. Dirt hangs down from the ceiling. These young females were afforded straw.
Outside, dumped on the grass, lies the body of a young pig. He is covered with scratches and bites.
A large number of dead pigs – perhaps 20 in all – was also found dumped in an uncovered heap.
Outside the sheds stand bin bags, full of dead piglets.
In the farrowing units, dead piglets litter the place.
One dead piglet has been swept aside and lies next to the broom. Others lie dead in the straw, or are stillborn inside cauls. One dead piglet has been removed from the crate but left on top of the creep box (the heated area provided to newborns).
The farrowing crates with solid floors have more straw than on our previous visit. This could be because the piglets are younger this time and – as they grow and the straw becomes wet – it is swept out. It is not used as bedding for the sows.
One sow has a significant sore on her face from rubbing against the bars.
Following our complaint in the spring that the pigs are denied environmental enrichment at this farm, the weaners have been given ‘toys’ to play with. While an improvement on nothing at all, these remain inadequate forms of enrichment and appear to fall short of the standard that Defra recommends.
In the growing-on pens, pigs are sleeping and wading through the dunging area. Following our previous visit, Meryl Ward claimed that pigs would only enter this area to dung. Clearly this is not the case. It is possible that the dry area (which is indoors) was too hot or too overcrowded.
The ‘deadstock’ area has now been built up, following our complaints to North Lincolnshire Council Trading Standards. It remained unlocked and the tarpaulin did not cover the animals. There appeared to be six large dead pigs in this area.
Near to the deadstock area are small pens containing young piglets without mothers. These may be sick bays or perhaps their mothers died. They are covered in flies – possibly because of their proximity to the deadstock area.
Watch the footage taken on Sandhouse Farm:
(The film shows our most recent visit.)
This film shows the conditions found on:
Norway Farm: from 00.05 to 04.25
Grayingham Grange Farm: from 04.26 to 05.42
Sandhouse Farm: from 05.43 to 09.53
Please fast forward to the footage you wish to view.
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