LAST UPDATED: 14 February 2017
Animals Australia took the unprecedented action of sending experienced investigators, including Communications Director Lyn White, into a major commercial factory farm in South Australia to document the conditions being endured by mother pigs.
This investigation was undertaken to address the dire need for Australian consumers to be made aware of the conditions endured by animals in factory farms.
'Dirty Little Secret'
Footage from Animals Australia's investigation was supplied exclusively to leading current affairs program 60 Minutes and underpinned their exposé on the pig industry. As Brightside Farm Sanctuary Founder Emma Haswell said, "This is the pig industry's dirty little secret".
As Animals Australia's Lyn White explained:
When the pig industry standards were last reviewed by governments, a full public consultation was meant to take place. The fact that so very few Australians even know how pigs are raised in this country shows how farcical that public consultation was. I have no doubt that had the public been properly informed and consulted as they should have been, they would have demanded an end to these cruel practices. Instead Animals Australia was left with no choice but to take this extraordinary action to expose the secrets of this cruel industry to consumers.
Tragically the profits of the pig industry have been underpinned by consumers buying factory-farmed products, blissfully unaware of the animal cruelty that they are financially supporting.
Viewers of 60 Minutes were shocked to witness hundreds of mother pigs in this large industrial piggery being treated as production units — individually confined in metal and concrete crates barely able to move — and to discover that such obvious cruelty is routine and legal in Australia.
As an animal cruelty investigator I have witnessed terrible treatment of animals in South East Asia and the Middle East. Yet nothing prepared me for the emotions I felt on entering that factory farm and witnessing the conditions inflicted on these animals. My sense of shame and outrage was overwhelming that this is happening in Australia; that this abuse of animals is legal — and that this was being carefully hidden from the community.
In terms of animal suffering the legalised cruelty endured by over 200,000 mother pigs in Australia is one of, if not the greatest ongoing abuse of animals that occurs in this country. An industry Code of Practice shields pig producers from being prosecuted for cruelty.
That the pig industry can even defend keeping a mother pig barely able to move for weeks on end, giving her nothing more than hard concrete or metal to lie on, speaks to heartless nature of this industry and how out of touch t hey are with community views on animal welfare.
Dragging the Chain
Until 2017 pregnant pigs in Australia can legally be kept in a metal and concrete crate just 1 cm longer and wider than their bodies for their entire four-month pregnancy. From 2017 producers will still be able to confine them in crates for six weeks per pregnancy despite sow crates being banned or phased out in the UK, Sweden, Finland, Holland and six states of the USA.
The pig industry tries to defend the use of sow crates by saying pregnant pigs can be aggressive with each other. Rather than acknowledging the cause of the problem — that in factory farms they are keeping too many animals in an unnatural, inappropriate environment and address this by giving the animals more space and quality of life — the industry's answer is to individually incarcerate animals so that they can barely move, compounding cruelty upon cruelty.
As a woman, I found the abuse of these mothers, deplorable. Given a choice, a mother pig will build a nest out of straw to give birth to her young in comfort. One could only imagine the distress of mother pigs in factory farms in being forced to give birth on a concrete or metal floor in the same area that she toilets. It is physical, emotional and mental abuse in the extreme.
The pig industry states that these birthing crates protect piglets from crushing. Yet, an estimated 600,000 piglets still die each year in these crates. Keeping mother pigs confined in crates is simply about keeping the maximum amount of animals in a shed to produce the maximum amount of products to sell for slaughter.
These facilities are literally animal prisons where tragically the victims are the ones who are behind bars. No person who had an ounce of empathy or compassion towards animals could walk down the aisle of a factory farm and condone the lives and conditions the animals are forced to endure.
Like me, most Australians care deeply about animal welfare. When I first found out how pigs were being farmed in this country I was outraged knowing that I had unwittingly been financially supporting animal cruelty all my life. I made the decision to never again contribute to the profits of this industry.
Simply through refusing to financially support animal cruelty, and by making cruelty-free choices at the supermarket, each one of us can vote for a kinder world, and put an end to the cruelty of factory farming.
Animals Australia has chosen at this stage not to not identify the large SA commercial facility at which the investigation took place since practices documented also occur in large commercial piggeries throughout Australia. Before entering the piggery, full biosecurity measures were followed by investigators only to find rats running around in the filthy conditions inside.
Animals Australia is immensely grateful to 60 Minutes, especially to journalist Liam Bartlett and Producer Howard Sacre, for producing this important story and revealing pig farming practices to many Australians for the first time.