• DAY 346: GOING UNDERCOVER INTO A SPANISH PIG FARM – PLEASE PASS THESE IMAGES ON.

    Sep 08 2013

     

    A sow in a gestation crate singing opera. Actually...being fairly miserable

    A sow in a gestation crate singing opera. Actually…it’s a fairly sad song I think

    Oh dear, I feel my blog has failed again. The photos are looking grim, very grim, and I fear I may lose you my dear readers.  Are you still there?

    Hello? (echo….echo).

    So far the trip to Spanish pig farms has been revealing, depressing and down right terrifying. The only time I normally go undercover is to pull the duvet over my eyes. This time I have a walky-talky, dark clothes, a satellite map and a  nervous tick in my heart.

    The photos you will see and the words you will read over the next few days will be an honest reflection of the conditions in many modern Spanish pig farms – and many places in the rest of Europe for that matter . This is because the farms I am visiting are entirely picked at random and I have no idea what is what.

    I would like to you to pass these pictures on to as many people as possible. This is the life of the vast majority of pigs in Europe – and much better than many pigs in the rest of the world. Awareness is our best ally.

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    Google Maps are a Spanish pig’s friend

    Manuel, my friend and assistant, has an astute plan to penetrate the intensive farms dotted around Catalonia.

    Some farms have been contacted by phone and we have asked if we can write an article about ham for an airline magazine  – the ones that agree are more likely to be the better farms – for others Manuel has scanned google maps and found thousands upon thousands which we can visit ourselves.

    In other words, make our own way in.

    It is truly astonishing just how many farms  are ‘secretly’ in the hillsides. One of the wondrous feats of modern farming is the sheer quantity of animals that we eat yet don’t see. Every year, billions upon billions of creatures slip silently to slaughter as we sleep.

    These are just a FEW of the pig farms we quickly located on google maps. Google maps are an invaluable way of locating farms from satellite imagery. The data can then be plugged into a GPS device.

    These are just a FEW of the pig farms we quickly located on google maps. Google maps are an invaluable way of locating farms from satellite imagery. The data can then be plugged into a GPS device.

    Manuel – who, on account of having bright blue hair and being only three inches tall (see last blog) – isn’t keen to come into the farms himself so has suggested that he keeps watch while I go in through the window or side door. If I am caught walking through the darkness on my own I have my defense ready : ‘hello, I’m a British fellow and I’m looking to buy some ham.’ But the other option might be better:  run fast – the fine for getting caught can be extremely serious and I’d like to stay living in the UK.

    Pig farms are fairly easy to spot from satellite:  a long shed (or sheds) housing the pigs, a round  grey object indicating the silo storage for feed, a winding dusty farm track connecting this to the road and an open pool of some kind where the shit is dumped out. Often this looks green. Just like my own .

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    Our first undercover visit

    However, our first farm is a fairly straight forward outing. It’s an arranged meeting with a fairly large farm comprising many thousands of pigs. I pose as a journalist, Manuel as my interpreter.

    The farmer meets us by a rusting gate and is fairly likeable and keen to tell us about his farm. He soon complains bitterly about the new ‘green’ EU laws that forbid him making too much profit. ‘How will we stop competition from China and India where they don’t have such strict rules? The EU regulations are killing us’ It’s good to hear this,  but nevertheless I nod sympathetically.

    It’s not long before we’ve earned his trust and we are shown inside.

    Don't step out of line...

    Don’t step out of line…

    Capture the eyes Martin...

    Capture the eyes Martin…

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    pigs are normally very clean creatures that like to go to the toilet away from where they sleep. This is not possible in the confined crates.

    pigs are normally very clean creatures that like to go to the toilet away from where they sleep. This is not possible in the confined crates.

    The long sheds are rich with the smell of pig shit and chemicals and so humid that sweat pours down inside my shirt. Rows upon rows of sows (I assume) are held in tight crates. Unable to move to go to the toilet they simply off load under their back legs. They stand, or try and lie down, on hard concrete floors with small slat that inefficiently drain urine and faeces.

    New legislation pushed forward by Compassion in World Farming has just come into effect and it is now illegal to hold a sow in a confined crate for more than 4 weeks but apparently all these pigs are here because they’ve been vaccinated. I wonder how long they will stay. Who checks the rules are not being broken?

    There are no immediate signs of acute pain or suffering – no screams, no blood, no wounds – only a muffled sense of meaningless, confined existence. These pigs are units or production. End of story.

    A sow in a farrowing crate. She has more space here than in the gestation crate (when she is preparing for pregnancy)

    A sow in a farrowing crate. She has more space here than in the gestation crate (when she is preparing for pregnancy)

    Don't forget that pigs are sociable, smart, exploratory creatures.

    Don’t forget that pigs are sociable, smart, exploratory creatures.

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    So much fun in here!

    We go into a smaller room where we are shown, with great pride, new born piglets .

     

    Fresh. Young. Clean. Open eyed and ready for their new life.

    There is less light here and the ceiling is lower and the heat higher as if we are descending into a moral cellar. Here there is new life but already they are on hard ground.

    This is one of the better farms. 

    In the next blog: I slip into my first farm unannounced….

     

     

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  • DAY 319: HOW DO I SAVE FARM ANIMALS? THOUGHTS PLEASE!

    Aug 10 2013
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    LIVE EXPORTS – a horrendous cause of animal suffering around the world.

    This morning I’m about to head off to a demo in central London against the live export of animals for slaughter. Organised by Compassion in World Farming. Sheep and cows stuck in small trucks for many hot hours. Maybe I’ll get there by going on the tube – to get into the mood so to speak.

    Excuse the lack of blog updates recently, I’m working frantically behind the scenes to start my work on farm animals whilst tying up all the wild animals. So to speak.

    Next week I’m due to travel abroad to visit some farms undercover of which I will update you soon.  Oh and I’m still due to watch Earthlings…been avoiding that a little. Its on my computer.

    There is one big question swirling in my head which I wanted to spill onto the page and get your feedback

     

    HOW DO I SAVE  FARM ANIMALS?

    60 million+ animals a year killed in farms. What possible difference can I make?

    Here are my thoughts. But feedback please before i go off in the wrong direction.

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    ANSWER 1) WITH DIET AND CONSUMER CHOICE.

    I’ll be looking carefully at what sort of impact a vege or vegan diet has on  our bodies, soul, the environment…and of course, the animals. But as usual filtering it through my fairly small brain and loose fingers for ease of reading. Do I need to become Vegan? I’m scared. I know I shouldn’t be but I feel I’m looking over the edge of a high (and fairly unstable) tofu cliff.

     

     

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    ANSWER 2) ANIMAL LIBERATION:

    I’ve been told that liberating farm animals almost certainly ends up in jail time and multiple escaped cows wandering on motorways – in which case one of you will have to liberate me from prison. I’ve made a decision NOT to go down this route as much as you want to read about me running away from a high security farm with a pig under each arm chased by Giles with a shotgun (actually I just spoke to someone about this who WAS chased by a captive-bolt gun weilding farmer). I will however look at rescuing battery laying hens.

     

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    ANSWER 3) RAISING AWARENESS:

    One of the best things I can do is tell a story of what goes on in farms. This is not saving animals per se but its still  the most useful action I can take. The ENTIRE  industry relies on people turning a blind eye to suffering on farms. To the slaughter, live export, rearing, separation. We ignore it and believe the pretty picture on the packet of healthy cows in a green field.

    But here’s the issue: there’s no point me preaching only to vegans, and there is no point doing writing something so grim everyone turns away – like they have always done. So I’ve decided I’m going to look at ‘respectable’ EU farms – not grim siberian slaughterhouses or egyptian market places  – and tell the story of  one animal only.

    I don’t want to shock, I just want to illuminate.

     

    Which aspect of farming is most cruel?

    Which farm animal do people most relate to?

    What story should I tell?

    How can I make a difference?

     

     

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