Photo: copyright LAV/Eurogroup for Animals
Today, shocking footage reveals the reality on some of the farms raising pigs for one of the most highly-priced pork products in supermarkets and delicatessens in Europe and worldwide – Parma Ham and other Italian speciality hams. The images reveal illegal practices, lack of hygiene and veterinary care, presence of vermin and total disregard for the welfare of the highly intelligent animals.
Most consumers are unaware of the deplorable conditions in which millions of pigs are reared in Europe. In reality the overwhelming majority of pigs in Europe never see daylight or breathe fresh air, but spend their entire lives in windowless, filthy sheds before being sent to slaughter. The new investigations released in Italy today reveal the reality on some of the farms raising pigs for one of the most highly-priced pork products in supermarkets and delicatessens in Europe and worldwide.
The footage reveals:
- Routine tail docking. The overwhelming majority of the pigs of all ages with their tails cut off. Tails are visible inside a waste skip holding carcases of dead animals (mostly piglets) and other remains;
- Pigs kept in barren pens on slatted floors, overcrowded, chewing at the ears, muzzles and limbs of other pigs;
- Sick animals in need of veterinary care. In one case, a severely emaciated and lame sow in a gestation unit is seen crawling with difficulty towards the feeding trough. The same sow is filmed while lying on the floor shivering;
- Pigs suffering from painful rectal prolapse (a condition leading to death if untreated, whereby the rectum loses its normal attachment inside the body, allowing it to protrude through the anus), eye infections, untreated ulcerated tail lesions and abdominal hernias (which if untreated can grow, cause painful torsions and some cases become ulcerated);
- Carcasses of dead pigs left close to occupied enclosures for long periods of time;
- Faeces and urine all over feeding troughs and covering the pigs, with pigs urinating on each other;
- In one specific case two foetuses that a sow has aborted lie on the floor.
‘‘These shocking investigations reveal the cruel reality for the vast majority pigs in Europe,” says Sarah Moyes, Campaigner, OneKind. “Animals raised for Italy’s most prestigious cured meat are being treated in ways that are inhumane and in breach of EU laws.”
Raising pigs in barren conditions, without appropriate enrichment materials, while at the same time performing routine tail docking has been illegal in the EU for more than 20 years.
“These revelations are all the more shocking in light of the fact that this is an industry that receives millions of Euros of EU and national subsidies without having to guarantee higher welfare criteria,” says Sarah Moyes. To add insult to routine injury, Parma Ham is a flagship product based in a city to which UNESCO has given the label of ‘Creative City of Gastronomy’.”
The plight of these pigs raises the question of why even the minimum European legal standards for pig welfare are not implemented in the production of one of Italy’s products of excellence, which are exported and renowned worldwide. It beggars belief that bodies such as the Parma Ham Consortium, with billions of Euros in annual revenue, have not imposed the strictest standards of animal welfare to its producers.
Through the End Pig Pain campaign, Eurogroup for Animals and its member organisations have already collected 500,000 signatures from citizens worldwide calling on the EU and on Member States (national agriculture ministers) to fully enforce EU pig welfare legislation. The case of the Parma Ham production is emblematic of a much more diffuse lack of enforcement of existing pig welfare legislation that should urgently be addressed.
 In early March 2018 Lega Anti Vivisezione (LAV), an Italian organisation that is a member of Eurogroup for Animals, received audio-visual materials filmed on pig farms in the Parma Ham PDO region.
 Council Directive 2008/120/EC, which confirms a previous Directive of 2001 (entered into force in 2003), tail docking of piglets cannot be carried out on a routine basis, but only if there is evidence of tail biting in a specific farm, and only if all other measures taken by the farmer to remedy the situation have failed.