Four supermarkets have stopped a pig-farming company following the release of video showing appalling neglect and brutality, including dying pigs being left among the living and workers kicking animals who were too crippled to stand.
Pigs at Willerby Wold Piggeries in North Yorkshire even resorting to cannibalism, and sick animals were left without treatment to languish in deplorable conditions.
Morrisons acknowledged the scenes were “appalling and disgraceful,” and said it was looking into them right away.
Asda claimed the farm had been dumped by its supplier, and Tesco and Sainsbury, who stated they only bought meat from the company on rare occasions, said they were also cutting ties with it.
One vet described the film as some of the worst she had ever seen, with workers demonstrating “monstrous disrespect” for the animals – but she added that it was not uncommon among UK pig farms.
After The Independent disclosed the clip, Red Tractor, a scheme that claims to certify only meat from well-cared-for animals, dropped the farm’s membership, and the farm stated it was working with “veterinary experts to resolve concerns.”
Undercover investigators recorded inside Willerby Wold’s sheds 12 times earlier this year and discovered pigs with bulging hernias, blood on their bodies, and painful, infected wounds.
This is some of the most horrifying footage I’ve ever seen from the United Kingdom; the workers show a horrible disrespect for the animals.
Alice Brough is a former Red Tractor vet.
Many of the animals in the videos are covered in flies, while others are trembling from sickness.
The tape shows that several people were so sick that their intestines were outside their bodies, yet The Independent would not publish such scenes.
Surge, an animal-rights organization, received the tape and said it found 15 probable violations of animal welfare rules.
Witnesses claimed that dying and dead pigs were left among the living and that they were all housed on dirty floors with poo on them.
Out of frustration, their pen mates gnawed at those who were lame and too sickly to get up.
When a worker kicked an animal that couldn’t stand it, it was forced to drag itself down the ground.
“This is some of the most distressing film I have seen shot in the UK,” Alice Brough, a former pig vet who used to carry out welfare checks for the Red Tractor accreditation system, said.
“Crippling lameness and long-standing illnesses can be seen in abundance, aggravated by the pigs’ deplorable living conditions. Despite having their tails cut at birth to shorten them, pigs gnaw them out of frustration.”
“The stock people have a horrible contempt for the sentient creatures in their care, disregarding the sick and dying and kicking paralyzed pigs who are unable to flee.”
“The unit is filthy, the pigs are sick, and the many dead are left to rot in enclosures among the live; this is the kind of location where our next epidemic will start.”
“Unfortunately, the major health and welfare issues on this farm are not unique, and represent much wider concerns across the industry,” said Dr. Brough, who is now an animal-rights activist.
“What investigators recorded here is just more proof that animal cruelty is not an aberration on farms, but is the norm,” said Ed Winters, co-founder of Surge. We’ve been told time and time again that these investigations are bad apples who don’t reflect the reality of animal farming, but undercover investigations have already uncovered cruelty on multiple Red Tractor-certified farms.”
“The footage we’ve viewed is disgusting and shameful,” a Morrisons representative stated. We are conducting an urgent investigation and have suspended Willerby Wold as a supplier.”
Tesco said it has stopped receiving supplies from Willerby Wold, despite the fact that the farm did not supply the chain on a regular basis.
Sainsbury’s has also suspended the company as a supplier until the results are investigated, stating that it has no direct involvement with the farm but that a small amount of produce may have been temporarily sourced from Willerby Wold this year by a supplier.
The farm was a backup, and any it uses must “meet our high welfare criteria,” according to the business. Sainsbury’s noted, “The health and welfare of our animals is highly essential.”
“This footage is quite distressing,” an RSPCA representative said.
“We are worried that regulations enacted to protect animal welfare on farms appear to be being broken. It purports to depict disturbing scenarios in which other pigs are concerned about sick, dying, and dead animals, as well as a lack of enrichment and bedding.”
“We were not notified about this through our cruelty line, but as soon as we received the tape, we contacted the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) to urge them to investigate and take action as quickly as possible.”
Willerby Wold Piggeries Ltd issued a statement saying, “The welfare of our animals has always been and continues to be the most crucial factor for Willerby Wold Piggeries.”
“Recent concerns about our animal care have been expressed, and we are taking these concerns very seriously.”
“We are now working with assurance specialists and veterinary experts to resolve any concerns or issues that have been reported, in addition to routine and spot audits.”
“Our priority is to source from producers accredited to Red Tractor or RSPCA Assured standards,” an Asda spokeswoman said, adding that the supermarket chain had rigors animal-welfare rules and that its supplier was investigating the issues revealed in the clip.
“We were appalled by the footage shot at Willerby Wold Piggeries,” a Red Tractor spokeswoman stated. This farm’s membership in our plan has been canceled based on information from our own inquiry and undercover footage.”
According to official records, Willerby Wold Piggeries, which can house up to 7,000 pigs at a time, received over £300,000 in EU Common Agricultural Policy subsidy payments from October 2019 to October 2020.
“Our members take their responsibilities to animal welfare extremely seriously and are shocked by the uncovered footage,” said Peter Andrews of the British Retail Consortium, who also spoke for Aldi.
“This will be looked into, and any violations of our members’ high animal welfare standards will be dealt with swiftly.”
A Morrisons spokesman said that all of the retailer’s ordinary chicken is raised to Red Tractor standards, and that “we actively monitor for any malpractice in our supply chain; we will never allow it or look the other way.”