Ignorant and self-serving - why pig farm trespass must not be allowed to happen again
6th Mar 2019 / By Lizzie Wilson
The NPA was absolutely horrified by the ‘Meat the Victims’ sit-in staged on a Lincolnshire farm on Saturday.
We are deeply concerned about a number of aspects of Saturday’s incident and are working to ensure the health and welfare of pigs is not compromised in this way again.
Trespass and intimidation
The group of 200 activists committed trespass with the aim of intimidating a farming family running a legitimate business. They had no thought for the welfare of the family or their staff, who suffered a traumatic experience. We are seeking legal advice and liaising with the police about how such incidents should be handled in future.
They have also seriously endangered the welfare of the pigs which they claim to care so much about. Their irresponsible behaviour will have damaging consequences that the farmer involved must now try to rectify.
Sows in a farrowing room are used to a quiet, calm environment with the same one to two people responsible for their care on a daily basis. They even become used to the colour of overalls worn.
100 activists piling in in white suits will have unsettled and agitated them and this is clearly visible from some of the footage as the sows are standing up and quite vocal. The presence of people also generally indicates to the sows that they’re going to be fed, therefore they were also probably expecting food. That combined with the fact that the activists prevented the farmer from feeding the sows at their usual time, will have caused additional distress. The farmer has since reported that a sow aborted a litter shortly afterwards which could be due to stress and/or introduction of disease.
During the live streamed footage a squealing piglet is clearly audible, due to it being crushed, although the activists appear to be oblivious. The farmer also reported two piglet deaths due to crushing. Pigs who are agitated, unsettled or anxious are far more likely to lie or stand on and crush their piglets.
Activists were handling piglets which were also squealing and then putting them back with the wrong litters – it is believed that several were trodden on by the sow and a couple came down with meningitis as a result of stress and piglet fighting.
African swine fever
ASF is a huge concern due to its close proximity to the UK and it has already demonstrated the ability to jump large distances largely as a result of people bringing contaminated pork into naïve countries and allowing pigs to gain access to it.
Pig farmers are currently being advised by Government, vets and industry bodies to be incredibly careful about allowing visitors onto farms, let alone having contact with pigs. It is essential that farmers know visitors have not had any recent contact with other pigs or have visited regions affected by ASF.
We have no idea whether the activists had recently been near other pigs, although we do know that this farm was not their intended target so they will have been to another farm that morning. We don’t know what they brought onto the pig unit in terms of food, or whether they may have been contaminated in some way, particularly considering we know at least one activist had flown in from another country.
They showed astonishing levels of ignorance and, again, a flagrant disregard for the wellbeing of the animals.
Other health risks
Biosecurity, the measures taken to minimise disease spread, is extremely important on a pig farm - anything imported onto the farm including people, feed, animals etc is strictly regulated. Furthermore, the environment of a farrowing room is controlled to prevent any disease or bacterial contamination.
This was completely compromised, with the sows now extremely vulnerable to the risk of numerous health breakdowns.
Health and safety
Many of the activists had apparently never even seen live farm animals or been on a farm, as reported in the second video down here
Farms can be dangerous places, even for those who work in that environment on a regular basis - these activists, with no knowledge or experience of pigs, were close to and touching sows with litters who may have been aggressive or just agitated at the time.
So, what did it all achieve?
Shiv (the activist who filmed for the FB live stream) actually commended the unit as clean, tidy and in good condition - one of the best she has been on apparently.
This was, after all, an excellent farm going about its business having done nothing wrong – and we want to thank Sylvia Hook, in particular, for the calm way she handled what was clearly a terrifying situation.
She gave an excellent account of herself in the media, so much so that far from the farm and the pig industry being ‘exposed’, it was the activists who ended up looking foolish, self-serving and ignorant of the realities of pig farming. From the negative reaction of the general public towards the activist’s actions here, this kind of activism is clearly not welcome in the UK.