A pig farm housing 15,000 animals in Oxhill has been described as a ‘vision of hell’.
The conditions at Hogwood Pig Farm were filmed by the vegan and animal welfare organisation VIVA and exposed in a spread in the Sunday Mirror.
The activists said conditions at Brian Hobill’s pig farm revealed some of the worst they had ever seen.
“Hogwood hides a catalogue of pain and suffering,” said VIVA founder Juliet Gellatley.
Mr Hobill disputes the claims made by VIVA, saying that care of animals was his top priority and that official inspections had raised no concerns about pigs reared on the site.
Ms Gellatley said: “Pigs were so tightly crammed into a disgustingly dirty industrial unit that it was hard to walk through them.
“Many were covered in lacerations and all were smeared in filth. In another shed, pigs were kept in groups in bare concrete cells with slatted wooden gangways. There was the cynical addition of a chain with plastic sheathing for biting hung limply, its novelty value long gone. This is to meet the government’s pathetic recommendations on ‘environmental enrichment’!
“No straw, no bedding, just harsh, soiled floors, concrete walls and a life filled with utter boredom, frustration and no outlet for those active, intelligent, inquisitive minds. These, it is claimed, are the best animal welfare conditions in the world,” she said.
The organisation’s undercover video shows farrowing/birthing crates (which do not allow the sow to turn around), overcrowding, tail mutilations and numerous dead and sick pigs.
“We found sick pigs were found dumped in gangways, surrounded by dead pigs with no access to food or water,” said Ms Gellatley. “Others were found dying in a filthy shed festooned in cobwebs. Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) guidelines state dead animals should be removed from the living and diseased animals should be kept in isolation.”
One of the most disturbing scenes is of a group of adults eating the corpse of another pig.
“Cannibalism is not natural behaviour for pigs and is caused by this bleak environment,” said Ms Gellatley. “Viewers will see in the same pen, tucked away in a corner, are two pig skulls, a jaw and a leg. Presumably they are from pigs that have died and their carcasses left there to rot.”
She said basic sanitation was nowhere to be found.
“Water troughs were soiled and everywhere pigs were covered in their own excreta. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) specifically advise pigs’ water troughs should be cleaned regularly and faecal matter should be removed in a timely manner.
“Outside one of the many sheds housing these animals was a large wheelbarrow filled with the bodies of over 30 dead pigs, in varying states of decay, demonstrating the high mortality rate at this farm; as well as complete disregard for hygiene.”
Ms Gellatley said the government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has, over several years, ignored widespread and serious animal welfare issues on factory farms reported to them.
“They are more concerned with protecting farmers’ profit than investigating our reports of serious animal welfare breaches,” said Ms Gellatley.
She said there was a disturbing lack of prosecutions pointing to a ‘failure by the UK government to treat the welfare of animals on factory farms with the seriousness it deserves’.
“I witnessed a mother giving birth on to a concrete floor. She was trapped inside a metal crate - a legal device used across Britain’s factory farms. Hogwood Farm typifies large-scale, institutionalised cruelty, sanctioned by government and it must end.”
In a statement to the Banbury Guardian Mr Hobill said: “The care of our animals is our top priority.
“These pictures taken by Julia Gellatley, leader of an extremist vegan group, do not represent the health of the pigs on our farm.
“We have CCTV footage, seen by the Specialist Veterinary Surgeon. This shows Julia Gellatley and the other three activists (VIVA) manipulating the scene by moving dead-stock.
“This confirms the strongly previously suspected view that footage obtained is being staged and therefore unreliable.
“The full report by a Pig Specialist Veterinary Surgeon has been given to the editor of the Banbury Guardian.
“It confirms that ‘This is a family-run high-health and modern pig unit, which strives to achieve the highest standards for the pigs reared on site’.
“The Unit has been inspected by APHA, DEFRA and Red Tractor, who raised no concerns on animal husbandry and welfare.”
However Ms Galletley said: “The only pigs touched were a dying one which I comforted and a ‘runt’ piglet in distress which I gently moved to his mother’s teat.”
Ginny Reid of the RSPCA said: “The RSPCA is concerned about the welfare of some of the pigs in the footage. The dead pigs appear to have been there longer than acceptable and should have been removed. Sick or injured pigs should be removed and kept in suitable accommodation with dry, comfortable bedding.
“Sadly, in general, the conditions seen in the footage appear to be compliant with legal requirements, which highlights the inadequacy of the law to protect the welfare of pigs.”