The fourth National Pig Awards took place this week as it does every year, inside a swish hotel in central London. The usual hand shaking and back patting by industry giants celebrating the ‘Best of British’ however was marred for the first time by an uncomfortable truth outside of the venue where Viva! Campaigns shone heartbreaking images of British pig factory farms brightly onto the plush Lancaster Hotel. With the help of renowned actor, Peter Egan, we ensured the sad lives of pigs were not forgotten or ignored as the glamorously dressed attendees arrived in taxis.
Actor Peter Egan and Viva! founder and director, Juliet Gellatley, present the pig industry the 'Shame of Britain' award
The annual event is organised by Pig World magazine in association with the National Pig Association (NPA), AHDB Pork and The British Pig Association (BPA). It is the only awards exclusively for the British pig industry. A total of 14 awards were handed out on the night by the NPA chairman to attendees demonstrating “innovation and excellence in their fields”.
Awards included stockman of the year, best outdoor producer, and best overall producer of year (won last year by Bedfordia Farms – a company Viva! not long ago reported to the government for housing sick and dead pigs inside vast, filthy sheds). One award was also handed to a farmer from East Yorkshire for best 'indoor pig producer'. At Viva! we have seen many, many pigs housed indoors on factory farms – more than 90 per cent of pigs in Britain in fact are farmed in this way, and invariably their lives are grim and involve continuous suffering. The aim of factory farming is to produce as much meat as possible at the lowest possible cost. The average large-scale pig factory farm houses around 900 sows. If someone were to treat a dog the way pigs are treated on modern-day factory farms, a prison-sentence could be on the cards. Yet this week, the farming industry literally celebrated and awarded it.
We were not going to let this happen without disruption. On the night of the awards, with the help of highly-skilled experts, we used high-tech equipment to project high and bright incredibly powerful images on to the exterior walls of the hotel. The images were from a number of Viva! Campaigns’ undercover investigations and were seen by attendees, passer-by’s, and the press. As well as projecting the bold images onto the hotel, we also took along our own award to the event – one to the British pig industry for being the ‘Shame of Britain’.
Most images were from pig farms supplying major supermarket chains. Some were Red Tractor and government approved. They revealed the overcrowding of pigs, crates that, despite the 1999 ban on sow stalls, around 60 per cent of sows in Britain continue to be incarcerated in whilst they give birth and until their babies are taken, and sick animals left to rot amongst the living.Several images from Viva! Campaigns’ most recent and shocking undercover investigation at the now infamous Hogwood ‘Horror’ Pig Farm were also used. This ground-breaking investigation in particular gained a huge interest from the media, including a double page spread and a follow up story in the Sunday Mirror.
We also used an image taken inside a pig farm in the north of Britain where we found piglets in what can only be described as ‘battery cages’. Piglets, who are naturally inquisitive and highly-intelligent animals, were provided with only a chain in these cages, and there was no reprieve from bored and frustrated cage-mates. At the time of our investigation, this same farm was supplying pig meat to Morrison’s and was approved by the so-called food assurance label, Red Tractor. In one particularly poignant image taken on this farm, a piglet had fallen through the bars of one of the decrepit cages and was sat hunched and shivering uncontrollably on the concrete floor. The look on his or her face can only be described as one of an animal waiting to die.
Viva!’s founder and director, Juliet Gellatley, who had won a truly commendable award a few years back - the first ‘Pride of Britain Award for Animal Welfare’ - gave an impassioned speech outside the hotel, as did Peter Egan who pointed out that nothing about pig farming should be celebrated.
The response of the attendees was mixed - some ignored it, some stood and stared, and others laughed as we played footage taken inside the pig farms. The abuse of these sweet, intelligent and so very aware animals was apparently funny to those pig farm bosses.
Each attendee may not have known the specific details about each of the images we projected, but very few would have been left unaware of our message – that the government and industry are failing to acknowledge the severe shortcomings of British pig farming and need to be held accountable for their actions.
The government and industry go to extreme lengths to hide the cruelty and squalor of pig farming from the public. By exposing the truth, Viva! publicly shame those responsible for keeping animals in awful conditions and hold them accountable.
Sadly, the images we used images were not isolated case, or ‘bad apples’. The entire farming industry that has degenerated to such a degree that the appalling treatment of animals has become ‘the norm’. And the government’s own statistics show this. Last year there were just 31 animal welfare convictions in Britain. Despite being made aware of potential welfare infringements by Viva!, there appears to have been no recent prosecutions for large-scale pig or poultry producers. And yet the public continues to be spun the line that we have the ‘best animal welfare in the world’.
The annual National Pig Awards shows perfectly how 'not all that glitters is gold'. The pig industry has nothing to celebrate, not while it incarcerates and kills millions of animals a year. The onus is not on them however, it is on each and every one of us to end the suffering by taking animals off our plates.
For more information on Viva!'s work for pigs, visit www.viva.org.uk/faceoff
To stop the suffering, Try Vegan. For the animals, everywhere.