• DAY 361: UNDERCOVER IN A SPANISH SLAUGHTERHOUSE (part 2) Still no photos!

    Sep 25 2013

    happypigs

    Entering the Spanish slaughterhouse was similar to entering an upmarket motorway hotel: polished, pleasant but bland.

    The entrance was  fronted by a main office with a  carpet that had never seen a drop of blood. Well-dressed administration staff sat at tables with computers and clean white paper. One had a meat sandwich on her table. No doubt the pork inside was not from the ‘kill floor’ but had made it’s long circuitous route via processing plant, packing station, supermarket and fridge . The very same route that separates death from food in our culture. The route I was about to shortcut by opening the next door to the kill zone.

    A man in a white jacket with very well spoken English took us down some steep metal steps. I wondered if was he from PR? How do you do PR for a slaughterhouse? I guess the whole of the meat industry is PR …

    ‘People think it will be world war 3 down here. But really it is very calm. First I will take you to the dirty zone’. I was nervous but kept up my banter with the guide. He was very upbeat, he could have been showing me around a perfume factory. I secretly pressed the ‘record’ button on my iphone that was in my pocket in anticipation for the noises: banging, slashing, screaming.

    He opened the door.

    woman-happiness

    Into the ‘dirty’ zone

    The so called ‘dirty zone’ was in fact a vast hall where pigs were being efficiently unloaded off the back of a truck into small holding bays. There was no screaming. It was eery and calm.

    Everything was rigid and rectangular – the architecture, the spaces, the ramps, the doors.  Each pig came in as an individual: some small, some large, some fat, some thin, some afraid, others not, but crammed into the tiny space it was hard to tell them apart. Sprinklers systems then washed off their dirt so that those that came from rougher farms were indistinguishable from those that did not.

    ‘The water relaxes them’ our guide said, ‘We want them all calm. Some people think meat tastes better when the animal is anxious. We know that adrenaline makes the meat worse so we want them to feel at ease’ I was disconcerted by this, just as I was by the relative quiet of the pigs.

    I learnt later that the ‘dirty’ zone is technical terminology for the area of the slaughterhouse where the animals enter the plant and the ‘clean’ side where the meat goes out. The precise point where the two intersect is technically where the skin is ripped off the dead body. The principle purpose of this divide is for food safety – the animals come in with all sort of dirt, vomit, faeces etc and must go out safe to consume – but the divide also creates a neat psychological separation between the animal as  a being and as a commodity.

    Pig becomes pork, dirty becomes clean, pain becomes forgotten.

    By entering the dirty side we were entering the side of life and, of course of death. This is the side is where animals arrive as individuals, where they are stunned (or in this case gassed), where they are hung upside down and are spiked in the throat, where they are drained of blood and then shortly after lose their lives. Only once they lose their skin do they lose all visual identity of what they once were. When the meat enters the ‘clean’ side we are on the side of supermarkets, consumers, packaging and we can safely leave behind all those things we associate with animal life: pain, emotion, fear and also hope.

    family-picture1

    The pigs were then ushered into a long thin corridor at the end of which a vast metal arm with a panel on the end came down and separated off the front eight or so. These were then guided up a ramp where a man at the top loaded three at a time in to a small container. The door closed, the container rotated, and a gas containing mostly carbon monoxide was released.  Two minutes later the pigs were dumped out, unconscious and limp, but still alive.

    Manuel whispered into my ear. ‘This is the point where I have seen a few wake up’

    I tensed in anticipation but each pig seemed to stay asleep as they were strung up by a single leg on a huge metal rig.

    A line of pigs now hung from the conveyor belt and slowly moved forward. This was the back bone of the whole slaughter house. This conveyor belt formed a track that took the animal all the way through to the meat packing. I followed its slow methodical progress round a bend where I saw the first recognisable aspect of a slaughterhouse. A man held a long sharp knife and with great precision dug it deep into the throat and quickly stepped back as blood gushed out into a long metal trough beneath him. The room was hot, it was steamy and its floor was very very pink all over. The man moved back and forth in a monotonous dance, dig, retreat, gush, dig, retreat, gush…

    calm

    The wrong reaction?

    But I was suprised and somewhat dismayed by my own reaction. I was not horrified. I was not disgusted. I was vaguely interested.

    How was it that all this compassion I had been trying to uncover for the last year wasn’t kicking in?

    Why did I not care more?

    Was I too overcome to feel anything?

    I think I know the answer but I am not entirely sure. On one level I was relieved that these pigs, who’d had such a miserable life, were now meeting a fairly painless death.

    But on another level my cultural normalisation was kicking in. I was seeing the pigs, that hung limply from the metal chains, as meat.  As normal meatI turned round to see where the pigs came in – alive – and where they pigs now hung – dying and couldn’t quite get my head around where the change happened. My culture and my compassion were not talking to each other. I found this confusing.

    But I was relieved to notice that the dead pigs were out of site of the live pigs coming in. Pigs are smart. Pigs understand what is happening but not if they can’t see it or hear it

    And then something disrupted the carefully orchestrated anaesthesia . One pig got loose from the ramp and escaped from the predetermined route, ran down a new path meant  for workers and and then for a moment appeared in a large doorway that looked over the killing zone. I glimpsed at it as is stood confused but a moment later it was retrieved, sqeualing intensely, and put back on its proper path to death. In that instance of escape, it was for one last second, an individual again. I saw it’s eyes and face and then it was gone.

    Our guide was unfazed.

    ‘We never ever want the conveyor belt to stop because then no one on the line can do any work and the whole slaughterhouse is dead. Things have to keep moving. Come this way and I’ll show you where we process our meat.’

    Manuel whispered into my ear a little later.

    ‘I saw it’s eyes,  it looked at me. I saw the fear in its eyes’

     

     

     

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  • DAY 351: A CLOSE CALL AT PSYCHO FARM

    Sep 13 2013
    Are we going into Space soon? Check out my little rocket capsule!

    Check out my little rocket capsule! Are we going into space soon? I’ve been waiting a while…

    A number of you have written comments about how awful the Spanish are at treating their pigs.

    I want to make something clear.

    I have nothing against Spain in particular (despite the bullfighting, galgo abuse, pig misery and dog chaining). This is a WORLD-WIDE issue. Many many other EU farms will be of the same quality if not worse and further afield they almost certainly are worse.

    I am in Spain because it is easier to get access here than elsewhere. Please do not boycott Spain in your hearts or in actions. Boycott intensive farming and spread these images and blog to make the case for the better treatment of pigs – and all intensively farmed animals – worldwide.

    But perhaps throw your Spanish salami out of the window.

    These cold metal bars taste divine. (pigs will chew on metal like this when bored and stressed)

    These cold metal bars taste divine. (pigs will chew on metal like this when bored and stressed)

     

    Pigs snapped through a window of another farm we passed

    Pigs snapped through a window of another farm we passed

     

    RSPCA FREEDOM FOOD?

    I want to draw your attention to an undercover video that has been sent to me that allegedly shows the reality of so called ‘FREEDOM FARM’ RSPCA assured farms.

    Please decide for yourself.

    I will be tackling the thorny issue of labeling later  but in the meantime if you want to be sure your meat is not cruel it is worth knowing exactly what organic farm it came from or it might be easier to not eat pork at all. The body movement of some of these pigs in the video  – with limp back legs – is exactly as I found some in Spanish pig farms

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzwXtvu39Js

     

    A close call at Psycho farm

    I have visited some more farms undercover and also by direct entry. I won’t bore you with too many details other than to say I’ve seen some fairly regular welfare issues including dead piglets, pigs unable to stand up, a lot of bar biting (caused by stress and boredom) and a lot of pigs stuck in stalls with sores on their side where they are forced to lie down in the same position.

    Oh look, little brother is STILL asleep. (a problem with genetically engineering large litters in a small space is that crushing is a constant threat)

    Oh look, little brother is STILL asleep. (a problem with genetically engineering large litters in a small space is that crushing is a constant threat)

    Ah, they're taking him away. At last !(mother watches as her crushed piglet is removed)

    Ah, they’re taking him away. At last !(mother watches as her crushed piglet is removed)

    sores on the sides of pigs are common in sow stalls

    sores on the sides of pigs are common in sow stalls

    But the final farm I visited was not as I expected.

    Late in the afternoon, and emboldened by a number of successful entries, I was confident I could get into a large farm high up on a hill overlooking a small town. Slightly delapitated and set against the lowering light it had the vaguely sinister air that Bate’s ‘mother’ from Psycho would have enjoyed.

    We drove up the hill. I got out and peered over the wall.

    To get inside without going through the main gate involved climbing over a huge old wall and going down a steep rough hill to join a number of metal steps that would leave me exposed in the cetnre of a large complex of buildings and a good distance from any exit.

    Why did I assume no one was there?

    I clambered over the wall and down the steep slope through long grass where I met some old metal steps. I felt I was in a video game, a first person shooter, moving through enemy territoty.

    In the first shed I saw one pig was unable to use its back legs. It dragged itself through the shit and muck on its front legs whilst others repeatedly knocked it over.

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    Ham sandwich anyone?

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    Rise and shine kids! It’s another fun day down at the farm

     

    For the sake of emotional clarity I have to say that this and the other few incidents I have described of injured pigs (the youngster with the bitten ear) are the ONLY times I have seen acute suffering. The rest of the time I am witnessing a empty existence – far more painful in the long term but without the peaks of intense misery.

    I crossed the open courtyard and saw a pair of rubber boots sat by a door. A hose pipe snaked along the floor and round the boots and then into the open door. The water was running.

    I paused, considering my options. If I went back up the steps I would be in direct view of the person that might be there. If I climbed over the main gate someone might see me. Foolishly, perhaps, I went into the next farm house. It was then that I heard the pre-arranged warning signal from Manuel

    Panic. Total panic. A car was coming into the farm. The plan was to retrace my steps and then run into the woods but in the fear I went to the nearest wall by the main gate and jumped over. I have no idea if the man who belonged in those wellies was behind me but he would not have caught me at the speed I was going. However I ran directly to where the car was coming. But I was lucky. As I went over the wall the car turned round a small corner and drove down the other side of the farm.

    I met Manuel in the car. ‘Let’s get out of here now’

     

    A dark flower is unfurling

    That evening I lay in bed looking at the small images on the back of my camera.

    Throughout this year the more suffering I have seen the more engaged I have become. It has been empowering to look and then in a small way, act to help. When people say ‘isn’t it awful for you?’ I have to explain it is often, strangely, the opposite.

    Yipee! I've been born in a farm...I  don't want to even look I'm so excited

    Yipee! I’ve been born in a farm…I don’t want to even look I’m so excited

    ...oh... that's IT?

    …oh… that’s IT?

    But now I feel something new.

    The faces of the pigs have entered the darkness of my night …. So so many animals staring silently out of the confines of the pens and me so powerless to do anything. Am I feeling guilt for all the years of meat eating or is it something elese? Is it a weird sort of mourning? The pain is muffled inside me– it is not shock, not even anger, a sort of awful realization that this is something very sinister and on a very VERY big scale.

    If you are kind enough to have read my blog from the start you will remember my rather hapless 24 hour walk around London looking for animals in distress.

    I discovered little apart from a load of men in Epping forest looking for sex (I suppose also animals in need ), a few hedgehogs (not looking for sex, or maybe they were?) and also the truth of how hard it was to find – and touch – animal suffering on the surface of a city. I ended up outside London zoo at 5am trying to listen for animal roars but in the breaking dawn I was moved by the fact I could hear nothing.

    All those captive animals but no noise.

    Going inside these small dark farms in Spain has been like going into London zoo before the gates are officially open. I find myself in a place I should not be (and yet should be) and I am witnessing a world of human power over other animals that is without pretence or marketing.

    And now I have also entered a dark place inside myself and have found something silent and compressed. A dark flower is unfurling in my heart and I am not sure if I want it to grow.

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  • DAY 348: ENTERING A PIG FARM UNANNOUNCED. OOPS

    Sep 11 2013
    I was getting more and more troubled by what I was seeing. And smelling. And it wasn't coming from me.

    I was getting more and more troubled by what I was seeing. And smelling. And it wasn’t coming from me.

    We smelt it before we saw it. The aroma was familiar  – syrupy, warm, sickly – and it oozed through the gaps in the windows.

    Manuel turned off the engine. ‘This one looks OK’.  Two long white buildings sat in the dusty hillside a few hundred metres away. He didn’t mean it was a nice pig farm – he meant I might be able to get inside without anyone seeing .

    We waited for a moment. No wind, no noise, no life. The only motion was waves of heat coming off the tarmac.  But inside hundreds of pigs would be packed in upon the hard slatted floors.

    ‘Are you sure there is no person inside?’

    ‘It’s too hot. They are probably asleep, or in a bar…or it’s just left empty’.

    When animals are treated as units of mass production then welfare (and ultimately quality) is compromised in the hunt for productivity and profit. This is the flawed equation at the heart of all intensive farming. Pig production is no different. Staff cost money.

    Outside the farm we found a large container full of dead pigs with one baby pig squished underneath them. Perhaps they had been sick. Good to know that someone was tending to the dying.

    Dead pigs piled up outside a spanish pig farm waiting collection

    Dead pigs piled up outside a spanish pig farm waiting collection

    A dangerously simple plan

    The plan was simple: go in, don’t get caught, take some photos, get out. Spread the images on the blog.

    But Manuel was not keen to come inside so suggested I go in alone. This wasn’t wonderful but it made sense. This was my journey so my risk. I decided on a rough plan that were more informed by childhood experiences of retrieving a football kicked over the fence than much else –  I would enter by walking to the very corner of the building, climb over the wall where I was least visible, have a snoop round and get out before my mum found me. If necessary I could go to the sewage pond and crap myself.

    My escape route would be diametrically opposite to the road that was going into the farm. If a car came I would then head through the woods, up and over the hill and track back to the road. Either that or I would sit down and cry.

    Although nervous I felt strangely emboldened by having seen the misery of the pigs the previous day. Did this give me any right to go in? No.  These pigs need to be acknowledged  and I felt I was protected by that imperative. I was wearing a moral cloak of invisibility. Or was it a checked shirt from GAP that stood out painfully against the hillside?

    This was the most space I had seen pigs given for a while

    This was the most space I had seen pigs given since being here.  Not too bad.

    Inside the farm

    Before I knew it I was over the wall and tucked in an SAS crouched position. I had to stop myself from making a pistol shape with my fingers. This is real, Martin, wake up.

    I peered  round a wall between the two long buildings.  A long alley-way  between the buildings lead to a half-open door that I guessed went into  the pig enclosure. Thee door was fully visible from the incoming track. If a car came and I was inside the pig enclosure I would have to run out of the door in full view. The windows were blocked up. Hmmm. Screw it, I’ll go for it. Spanish prison can’t be as bad as being in a pig in a shit dump.

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    After some initial fear the pigs were keen to make contact with me but I didn’t touch any for fear of cross-contamination

    I heard a grunt then a cough. Then another cough. I stepped back but realised it must be a pig. Many pigs have chest infections in intensive farms. I scuttled over to the door and pulled it open.

    At first the conditions did not look too bad. Maybe two hundred pigs, perhaps a month or two old being fattened for slaughter. They squealed a little in fright and retreated against the back wall but then quickly settled down. There was the usual slatted floors, metal bars and intense heat but I was vaguely surprised by the space they had been given. I saw one pig with a badly swollen ear that hung down to its side.

    Dead, sleeping or hopeless? Let's play the game!

    Dead, sleeping or hopeless? Let’s play the game!

     

    I moved through the half-darkness taking photos all the while  listening if a car might come. Pigs pushed up to the bars to meet me but I made a point of not touching them for biosecurity reasons. Barriers still existed between us. One young pig lay lifeless on the floor. Asleep, dead or hopeless?    Perhaps there’s a game show in that I wondered…  Is this pig dead??? $1 million is yours if you play ASLEEP, DEAD OR HOPELESS with me, a slightly over-excited host in a pink leather coat. Thin humour provided distance.

    The conditions in the final pen were horrendous.

    The conditions in the final pen were depressing. Something tells me the pigs felt the same.

    I then moved onto the next shed. Darker in here. Adult pigs this time, but compressed into a small space so they could hardly move. Maybe fifteen or more pigs in a pen only ten foot by ten. Their long backs pushed up against each other and  covered in a black slime. More coughing. Eyes peered at me, white circles on black faces as though they were dressed in war paint. I hardly dared look at the eyes as if the pigs might think I would help.

    cramped conditions

    horribly cramped conditions

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    That was enough. It was time to get out.

    I retraced my steps and clambered back over the wall. I met Manuel and slumped back into the car. I felt relieved and physically exhausted but for the moment not much else.

    ‘Please don’t mention my name on this blog, Martin’

    ‘Of course not. Woudl you like to be a woman?’ It seemed  a strange question to ask. ‘Perhaps a priest?’

    Manuel smiled. ‘Just change my name’

    It was not until that night that emotions began to surface. Often new experiences filter down, juices rearrange in the gut and feelings bubble up later.

    But I was about to go into another three farms – also unannounced  – and the final visit was not quite as safe or predictable as I was expecting. Perhaps that is what got to me.

    In the next blog.

    I love the faux rustic mottled effect in here... Is this Farrow and Ball?

    I love the faux rustic mottled effect in here… Is this Farrow and Ball?

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  • 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 343: THE DIRTY FACE OF SPANISH PIG FARMING

    Sep 05 2013
    The eyes have it. My goal is to capture the faces - and eyes - of the pigs in intensive farms. Perhaps that can help me - and you - relate to them as individuals better

    The eyes have it. A pig in a Spanish intensive farm that I just photographed. This pig is NOT covered in outdoor mud. I can only assume it is shit. This pig has spent its entire life on hard floors with no bedding, away from light, cramped in a small space. My goal is to capture the faeces – sorry, faces – of the pigs in intensive farms. Perhaps that can help me – and you – relate to them as individuals.

    If there is one theme to this year it is this: to connect

    If there is one aspect of intensive farming that makes it so powerful it is this: it is hidden from view

    If there one way to relate to animals it is by meeting their eyes.

    If there is one thing I ask of you it is – to keep looking. 

    For all you may read about the horrors of intensive farming, the grisly facts and figures, there is nothing so powerful – or transformative – as meeting a pig face to face that is stuck in a shit-filled dark shed with no light and little space to move.

    As a photographer I spend a lot of time focusing on subjects’ eyes. Look this way please. Yet an animal’s gaze that can be even more powerful than a human’s. Partly because they have no words – the eyes are our way in – and partly because they don’t know how to lie. The eyes are our point of connection.

    The above pig – and those below – were photographed on my first day in Spain, inside a small hut planted anonymously on a hot, dry hillside. My intention with these is not to take pictures that shock, rather pictures that communicate something of the emotional experience of being an animal in an intensive farm. It is the eyes.

    The pigs are both scared of me and intrigued. The heat is hard to bear, the floor covered in excrement and the pigs closely confined

    The pigs are both scared of me and intrigued. The heat is hard to bear, the floor covered in excrement and the pigs closely confined

    Young pigs being reared for meat.

    Young pigs being reared for meat.

    A sow, one of many, in a gestation crate

    A sow, one of many, in a gestation crate

    My goal is to go undercover into as many intensive pig farms as I can and already I’ve managed to get into one farm as a supposed reporter and two others with the help of an informed and experienced local. I cannot mention his name, so we might as well call him Manuel and assume he is vastly tall or perhaps really really small. Maybe with bright blue hair. Whatever your imagination wants.

     

    Catalonia in North East Spain is a hot spot for intensive pig farming.

    Catalonia in North East Spain is a hot spot for intensive pig farming.

     

    Catalonia (Catalunya) – the heart of Spanish intensive pig farming

    I am in Catalonia, the beautiful territory around Barcelona in the North East of Spain that slides down from the Pyrenees towards the sea. Summer refuses to leave – the earth is dry and the heat rises off the tarmac yet the sprawling hills are also rich with trees and long grass.

    But in those hills are many small secrets.

    This area is home to a vast number of small intensive pig farms that are dotted around the countryside and to the untrained eye  appear as nothing other than quaint farm buildings.  Inside they are hot and cramped and festering with thousands upon thousands of lives that pass year-in year-out without ever touching natural soil or grass.

    A prettier side to Catalonia

    A prettier side to Catalonia

    My contact – did I call him Manuel? – has been into these places before. He is a vegan. He is young. He is more morally developed than me. Of this I am sure.

    We sit down in the morning and plan our day.

    Will we get busted? Will they make me try some sweaty ham?

    Read on…and more importantly keep looking.

    A sow awaits birth of her piglets in a farrowing crate.

    A sow awaits birth of her piglets in a farrowing crate.

     

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  • DAY 328: AND THE MYSTERY ANIMAL IS…..

    Aug 20 2013

    pig_diagram_resize

    Four legs, oink oink, ketchup, british policeman

    Not so mysterious at all.

    Or is it?

    How much does the average person know about the average animal that they eat so regularly for their average breakfast?

    I’ve decided that over the next few months I will tell the life of a typical pig from birth to death and the welfare issues associated with it. At this point I hear the click of departure to other blogs and to more entertaining animal fodder. Kitten dances to ABBA. Monkey sticks finger up bum.

    What a smell....

    What a smell….

    But pigs can be sooo cute too...

    But pigs can be sooo cute too…

    mini pigs

     

    But I want to strike a deal. If its true that the prevalence of intensive farming depends largely on ignorance (or denial) of what happens behind closed doors then the last thing I want is to make you turn  away. You clearly CARE. Who will listen if not you?

    pigs_2063244b

    I’m not travelling to India to see pigs attacked with hammers. I’m not going to tiny farms in remote Laos. I’m heading to good upstanding EU countries that are subjected to strict welfare laws far more rigid than in China or India or Brazil (where they kill far more pigs than in Europe). In return I hope you’ll carry on reading.I don’t want to seek out gore, I don’t want to show pictures of death or slaughter or one in a thousand cruelty. I want simple truths about what happens to a  EU pig from birth to death. Should we not know?

    Every year around 1 billion pigs are killed. Nearly half are killed in China but a large proportion of the rest in Europe, with Germany being the biggest consumer.

    I will witness for you the life of one of the many millions of EU pigs. I will describe my emotions with honesty and I will show the good side of European farms as well as the not so good.

     

    Two problems

    1) The first problem is that 90% of pigs that are farmed in Europe are intensively farmed. Which means living their lives indoors for a few months before they meat, I mean meet, their end. I’ve no doubt that many of you are vege/vegan or organic meat eaters. But clearly if I’m to do justice to a TYPICAL EU pig I have to spend a fair amount of time looking at typical intensive farms.

    2) The second problem is:  how on earth do I get access?

     

    Happy Pigs

    But first I’m going to go and meat, I mean meet, some happy pigs. I’m off to visit a wonderful woman in London who has two pet pigs and who knows about the animals and also abotu farming.

    This may sound ridiculous but I figure if I don’t know pigs as individuals – what they are LIKE, then how can I begin to understand their emotional journey? A pig in Fulham is not an intensively farmed pig – but that is the point.

    Come with me as we get to know pigs in all their guises.

    If he thinks he's going to get access to me with that business card he's having a a laugh.

    If he thinks he’s going to get access into intensive farms he’s having a laugh

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