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​Tesco Suspends Pig Supplier Amid Disturbing Welfare Violations

​Tesco Suspends Pig Supplier Amid Disturbing Welfare Violations

Posted by Emily on 10th Jul 2024

Tesco has temporarily suspended one of its pork suppliers, Cross Farm in Holsworthy Beacon, Devon after activists from Animal Equality released footage depicting severe animal welfare violations. The footage, captured on hidden cameras, revealed disturbing practices, including the killing of piglets by swinging them against concrete walls, a method known as "thumping." This practice is legal in Britain for piglets under four weeks old, but only if the animal suffers and no other treatment options are available.

The footage also showed workers cutting the tails of piglets, seemingly without anaesthetic. This procedure is legally permissible but is intended only as a preventative measure against tail biting when all other methods have failed. Further distressing scenes included pigs left to rot on the floor and others being crushed to death by their mothers.

The hidden cameras documented these conditions on three separate occasions between October last year and June this year. Activists filmed workers handling piglets roughly, causing visible distress to the mother pigs. One sow's agitation was met with a farmhand throwing straw in her face. Newborn piglets were seen lying dead inches from their mothers, who were confined in farrowing crates. These metal cages restrict the mother's movement while allowing piglets to suckle.


Records found in the barn indicated many piglets died from being "laid on" by their mothers or from starvation. The sows themselves suffered deep wounds from constant rubbing against the metal crates. Abigail Penny, executive director of Animal Equality, stated, "Pigs on Cross Farm struggle and suffer in the most abysmal conditions. Our footage shows the wretched reality that so many mother pigs face on British farms today."

Upon being presented with the footage by The Times, Tesco announced the suspension of supply from Cross Farm pending an investigation. The farm, owned by WJ Watkins and Son and housing approximately 12,000 pigs, is certified by Red Tractor, a national scheme designed to uphold animal welfare standards. However, the footage raises significant concerns about the scheme's effectiveness.

This incident is not isolated; just four months prior, another undercover investigation at Cross Farm revealed pigs engaging in cannibalism and suffering from untreated wounds. In 2017, Animal Equality's investigation, published by The Times, found animals living in filthy, leaking buildings with no dry resting place.

Red Tractor certification, established in 2000 by the National Farmers' Union, is intended to mark food produced to high standards. Yet, repeated reports of poor treatment at certified farms suggest systemic issues. Following the recent footage, a Red Tractor spokesman confirmed the temporary suspension of Cross Farm's certificate. An independent assessor conducted an unannounced visit and noted that the farm had already implemented measures to address some issues. Consequently, the certificate was reinstated, but the farm remains scrutinised with additional unannounced checks.

"Animal welfare standards are a top priority for Red Tractor, and we take allegations of this type very seriously," the spokesman stated.

Advocates for Animals, a law firm, has filed a complaint with Heart of the South West trading standards, alleging potential breaches of welfare law based on the footage. They have called for a thorough investigation and appropriate enforcement action.

Lizzie Wilson, chief executive of the National Pig Association, defended the farm's efforts, saying, "The welfare of our animals and how they are cared for on our farm is paramount. We have taken urgent remedial action where standards fell short and cooperated with numerous inspections."

This unfolding situation underscores the urgent need for rigorous enforcement of animal welfare standards and transparent accountability within the farming industry.