‘You can no longer say that you didn’t know.”
The hidden truth behind UK animal farming – featuring approximately 100 facilities across the UK and never before seen undercover footage.
by ‘Earthling’ Ed Winters
Narrated by Ed Winters
When we think of UK farming we imagine picturesque rolling hills of lush greenery and serenity – inhabited by peaceful content farm animals roaming freely amongst the landscape. These cultural associations of traditional UK farming are constantly pushed into our minds through the use of advertising and such associations make us feel good about our purchases as a consumer. Most do not realise that we’v been blinded by a smokescreen and that the reality of UK farming exists at the opposite end of the moral spectrum in regards to human compassion towards animals and the Earth. To begin to understand the hidden truth about UK farming we must be willing to look behind the facade that these companies have fought so hard to maintain and open our eyes to the truth.
THE GOVERNMENT AND THE ANIMAL AGRICULTURE INDUSTRIES FIGHT TO KEEP THE CONTENT OF THE FOLLOWING FILM HIDDEN FROM YOUR VIEW
THE FOOTAGE YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE IS NOT FROM ISOLATED CASES
THESE FACILITIES SUPPLY ANIMAL PRODUCTS THAT ARE LABELLED
The footage you are about to see is the reality of UK farming.
In the UK alone we slaughter around 1 billion land animals every year for meat dairy and eggs.
LIKE US, THESE ANIMALS EMBODY THE MYSTERY AND WONDER OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
LIKE US, THEY ARE NOT ONLY IN THE WORLD, THEY ARE AWARE OF IT.
LIKE US THEY ARE THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CENTRES OF A LIFE THAT IS UNIQUELY THEIR OWN.
HOPE AND GLORY
There are approximately 11,000 pig farms in the UK. Around 1,400 of these units house more than 1,000 pigs and hold around 85% of the total pig population in the UK. On these farms the pigs receive no care or compassion and are treated as nothing more objects, classified as property. There is no beauty on a pig farm, void of natural light and therefore any resemblance of time, it is a production line that takes these animals from birth to death. There is also no legal definition or formal standards for free-range pigs, which means retailers can label pork products as free-range without having to meet any any standards or guidelines. In fact, only 3% of pigs will spend their entire lives outdoors.
Pigs have been proven to be as intelligent and emotionally complex as dogs, but in the UK we would never consider eating dogs as we value them for their intelligence, personalities and loyalty. The sad reality is, the vast majority of the pork products sold in Britain come from these horrific factory farms. Most pigs are officially entitled to less than one square meter space each and the majority of sows, or female breeding pigs, are kept in farrowing crates. These were made illegal in several countries across Europe but are still standard farming practice here in the UK. These crates are so small that the sows cannot turn around in them and the mother pigs are forced to stay in these crates up to five weeks at a time every time they give birth.
The majority of sows in the UK are artificially inseminated in order to ensure they’re kept continuously pregnant. This cycle of forced impregnation and confinement is repeated over and over again for about three to five years, or until the sow is too exhausted to carry on. At this point she is then slaughtered for low-grade meat such as pies, pasties and sausage meat. There is often no bedding and no sewage system on the farms, which causes excrement to pile up underneath and around the pigs, forcing them to learn their own faeces for weeks on end, creating a perfect environment for diseases and infections to thrive.
The abuse of pigs doesn’t start at adulthood, or even adolescence, but in fact begins immediately after birth. In the wild piglets would remain with their mothers for around 12 to 14 weeks but in UK farms, piglets are taken away from their mothers after only 3 to 4 weeks. At this point they begin the process of being given incredibly powerful antibiotic drugs. Around half all antibiotics sold in the UK are used on farmed animals, with 60% of these being used on pigs. Farmers also inflict horrific mutilations on piglets by amputating their tails and clipping their teeth. All of which is done without anaesthetic or painkillers. T his is done to prevent the pigs from cannibalising one another, a behavioural trait that the animals will often resort to when they go insane due to the conditions they’re kept in combined with their high intelligence.
If the piglets are not growing fast enough, or are sick and injured, they are seen as unprofitable to the industry so are then killed. This is done in the most cost effective manner, meaning that often the piglets are slammed against walls, concrete floors or bludgeoned with metal poles. Further abuse on pig farms and slaughterhouses is neither isolated, nor a rarity. Across the country countless pig farm workers have been documented torturing, maiming and beating pigs. Consequently, many pigs carry open wounds and deep lacerations and many die before making it to the slaughterhouse.
When the pigs reach slaughter age, at around six months, they’re transported in cramped and overcrowded trucks with no food or water. After undergoing extremely traumatic journeys they are shown no mercy and are herded to their deaths. Some pigs do not survive the journey to slaughter and are thrown into bins.
THE FOLLOWING SEGMENT WAS FILMED IN AUSTRALIA, HOWEVER THE EXACT SAME METHOD OF SLAUGHTER IS USED ON 1/3 OF PIGS IN THE UK.
One of the methods of slaughter for pigs in the UK is the gas chamber, where groups of pigs are herded into metal cages which are then dropped into a chamber that is filled with carbon dioxide. Once inside the chamber the pigs scream and thrash, fighting for their lives for up to 30 seconds. This method of slaughter is used for UK supermarkets including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Waitrose.
The other certified humane method of pig slaughter in the UK is electrical stunning, with the aim to render the animals unconscious before they have their throats slit. However, stunning is often poorly executed by rushed slaughterhouse workers, which results in an estimated 1.8 million pigs regaining consciousness on the production line each year and being fully conscious as they die from blood loss.
Cows are mammals who, like humans, only produce milk to feed their children. Therefore, for a cow to produce milk she must first give birth to a calf. This means dairy cows are impregnated every year in order to keep a continuous milk supply. This is done through artificial insemination, a process in which semen is first obtained from a bull before being injected inside the uterus of the female dairy cow. The farmer does this by inserting his arm inside the cow’s anus and holding her cervix in place before sliding a needle through the cervix and injecting the semen inside of her. Calves would naturally feed from their mothers for around nine months to a year but dairy calves are taken away from their mothers normally within 24 to 72 hours of birth. This is done in order for the farmer to ensure as much milk as possible can be acquired from the mother. This is an incredibly traumatic experience for both mother and child and both will cry out for days. If the calf is female she’ll be separated from her mother and kept in solitary confinement with barely any room to move. Legally she’s only meant to be kept in these crates for eight weeks, however it has been documented on UK farms that the calves are kept in confinement for as long as six months. She will then face the same fate as her mother, being forcibly impregnated continuously so her udders can be pumped for milk that will be consumed by humans.
The process of milking is gruelling and relentless as dairy cows have been modified to produce up to 10 times more milk than they would naturally. This over milking causes diseases and infections like mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder which affects around 30 percent of UK dairy cows. After around four to six years, or when the cow is too weak to continue, she is sent to be slaughtered – even though a cow’s natural lifespan is around 25 years. There is a misconception that buying dairy means that cows don’t have to die however, all dairy cows are slaughtered and each year around 150,000 cows are slaughtered while still pregnant.
If the calf is male he will be of no use to the dairy industry and generally less suitable for beef production. This means that every year around 90,000 male dairy calves are shot soon after birth and discarded as a by-product. Male calves that are not shot will instead be raised for veal, even in the UK or in Europe. Meaning that the calves have to endure long traumatic journeys as they’re either exported out of the country to their deaths or to slaughterhouses here in the UK.
The calves that are suitable to be raised for beef will be sold at livestock markets, an extremely stressful environment where the calves are auctioned off and then taken to cattle farms. Most calves raised in the UK have to endure painful mutilations such as castration and disbudding. Disbudding is a procedure where a calf is restrained and has a hot iron rod forced onto their horn buds in order to prevent the horns from growing.
Mother cows often suffer from crippling lameness and pressure sores. In fact, over 50% of dairy cows in the UK are affected by these painful injuries and some cows are forced to wear chains called hobbles for months at a time. These devices are used on mother cows who have suffered pelvic damage during calving, a frequently documented problem for dairy cows who have been selectively bred to ensure maximum milk production. Dairy cows are often subjected to further abuse with UK farmers documented kicking mother cows and beating and throwing new borns calves.
Around 50 percent of UK beef comes from dairy cows whilst the remainder comes from cattle reared for beef. In the UK we are led to believe that dairy and beef cattle are allowed to roam freely outside however, in almost all castle farms the cows are kept in housing for at least some part of the year and in many cases cows are raised in intensive farms where they are denied access to the outside for their entire lives.
When the cows have reached slaughter age they are herded into trucks and trailers and are transported to their deaths. Once the cows arrive at the slaughterhouse they are individually forced into the stun box where they panic and fight for their lives. Most cows are slaughtered by first being stunned with a captive bolt pistol before then being hung upside down having their throat slit. It is estimated that between five to ten percent of cattle are not stunned effectively and will have to endure the experience have being shot repeatedly in the head, or having their throat cut and their blood drained whilst still fully conscious.
Every year in the UK we slaughter around 950 million birds for food consumption including chickens, ducks and turkeys. 90% of chicken production in the UK is indoors with the birds kept extremely cramped sheds which usually house anywhere between 20 to 50 thousand chickens each. Placed in the sheds after birth the chickens will never leave the barns until the day they die. The chickens are kept under near constant dim artificial light, as this is believed to increase the feed intake and maximises growth in the chickens. Due to selective breeding and genetic modification, the birds reach slaughter age in just 41 days – in essence meaning they are chicks in an obese adult body as at 41 days old in the wild the chicks would still be sheltering under their mother’s wings.
It is a similar story for ducks and turkeys. 95 percent of duck flesh and around 90 percent of turkey flesh comes from intensive indoor farming, where tens of thousands of birds are crammed into windowless sheds almost identical to that of broiler chickens. Due to incredibly fast rates of growth, birds raised for meat suffer terribly their young bones unable to support them, breaking under the weight and strain of their disfigured bodies resulting in painful lameness which prevents them from eating, drinking or even standing up.
Because they are unable to move, the immobilised birds are prone to being pecked and cannibalised by their fellow birds, whilst still alive. And due to their inability to reach food or water points, many birds die from dehydration or starvation. Furthermore, organ failure is extremely common with millions of birds dying from heart and lung failure before they even reach the age of slaughter. Due to the filthy conditions and the fact that their bedding is never changed, the ground inside the sheds quickly becomes covered in faeces, creating the perfect environment for disease riddled bacteria to grow. This leads to the chickens, ducks and turkeys getting foot rods and hock burns where the bird sensitive skin has been scorched by the ammonia rich faeces covering the shed floors. Birds that die in the sheds are either left to rot on the shed floors or are thrown into bins outside.
When the birds have reached slaughter age they are transported to their deaths. Teams of catchers work at high speeds to load up huge transport lorries, violently grabbing the birds and flinging them into crates. Due to the heavy-handed and fast-paced operation, many of the animals have their legs and wings broken their skulls crushed and their hips dislocated. This results in the birds being forced to endure relentless pain on their journey to slaughter. The birds are transported in tiny crates, creating an extremely stressful environment, with no access to food or water. This is the first time the birds will feel sunlight or breathe fresh air and millions of birds die each year on the journey from shed to slaughterhouse due to extreme weather conditions, injuries, organ failure, and trauma.
Those that make it alive to the slaughterhouse are then shackled by their feet and hung upside down. After they have been shackled they’re then carried to an electric water bath where they will suffer a painful electric shock thats purpose is to render them unconscious. However, many of the birds do not get stunned as they don’t make contact the water and some regain consciousness before they reach the neck cutter, meaning that these birds are fully conscious as they’re throats are sliced open. They’re then move the scalding tank where their feathers are loosened prior to being plucked. Astonishingly an estimated 8.4 million birds are still alive at this stage and are boiled alive in the scalding tank.
One of the many hidden horrors of the egg industry occurs at the beginning of the process. Chickens raised for egg production are of a different breed to those raised for meat, meaning that the male chicks are not suitable to be slaughtered for their flesh. A very small amount of male chicks are needed for breeding, so on the production line male and female chicks are separated and the male chicks are taken to be killed as soon as they are born. It is estimated that up to 40 million day old male chicks are killed each year in the UK, by either being gassed or thrown into a macerator and ground up alive.
The female chicks are painful debeaked and then later transported to the laying farms just before they start laying eggs, where they will then spend their entire lives. Egg-laying hens would naturally only lay around 10 to 20 eggs a year however, hens bred for egg production have been selectively bred to lay around 300 a year. In the UK over ten billion eggs are produced each year, with around 51% of those eggs produced by hens kept in cages. Battery cages were banned across the UK in 2012, however the use of enriched cages is still allowed. Enriched cages entitle each hen to approximately a post card size more in space than the outlawed battery cages – an insignificant amount that still doesn’t allow the birds the space needed to stretch out their wings. Egg laying hens are kept in these cages their entire lives, denied fresh air and sunlight, never allowed to stretch, run or fly.
There is a misconception that buying free-range eggs means that egg-laying hens have lived a fulfilled and happy life – however, this is untrue. Even though eggs sold as free-range must come from hens who have access to the outdoors, most are never able to roam outside, due to the severe overcrowding and lack of space. In fact, a free-range farmer can legally house 16,000 birds in one building, meaning that they can house nine birds per square metre of space. This means that most free-range hens live out their entire lives in what is essentially an intensive, overcrowded, indoor farming unit. Hens on free-range farms also routinely have their beaks removed without painkillers to minimise aggressive pecking and cannibalism, a behaviour caused by extreme confinement. Although beak trimming is illegal in many European countries due to the pain inflict on the birds, it is still standard industry practice here in the UK.
Because laying eggs results in a huge loss of calcium, egg-laying hens suffer from high rates of osteoporosis and it is reported that more than 45 percent of hens break a bone at some point during their lives. Furthermore, due to the fact the birds are kept under stressful conditions and are prone to getting parasites such as lice and red mites, nearly all of the birds lose a significant amount of their feathers, which increases the likelihood of them becoming injured and developing infections.
Just like birds raised for meat, many egg-laying hens die from disease and are either left to rot on the floor or are thrown into bins. When the hens are around 72 weeks old, or when their egg production declines, they’ll be transported to the slaughterhouse where they’ll be killed for their flesh. Over 40 million spent layer hens are killed each year in the UK, either by being gassed to death or being shackled by their legs and dragged through an electrified water bath, before then having their throats slit.
Lamb is the meat that comes from a baby or juvenile sheep and lamb and sheep farming is often considered to be the most idyllic of all, but in reality it is an industry that consists of the mutilation of baby animals and rampant disease. There are several different mutilations carried out on lambs. The males are castrated using elastration, a technique that involves a thick rubber band being placed around the base of the infants scrotum, which obstructs the blood supply causing the genitals to decay and fall off. This method causes severe pain to the lambs who are provided no pain relief during the process. And lambs also have their tails docked using the same method. Baby goats who are raised for their flesh and milk are also subjected to the same mutilations including being ear tagged and disbudded.
Diseases are extremely common on sheep farms, with mastitis and severe lameness widespread. Whilst footrot, a severe bacterial infection, is present in over ninety seven percent of flocks in the UK.
When the lambs are around four to six months old they are piled onto trucks with barely any room to move and are forced to endure a terrifying journey to their deaths. And as with all animals raised for food consumption, many don’t survive the journey to the kill floor. Around 1.4 million sheep and goats are killed without being stunned each year in the UK, using halal practices. Many people in the UK oppose this form of slaughter, yet purchase halal meat unknowingly since it is sold in most major outlets including supermarkets and takeaways, without always being labeled as halal.
In stun slaughterhouses across the UK, sheep are most commonly stunned using electrical prongs to render them unconscious. It is estimated that as many as 4 million sheep are conscious each year whilst they are having their throat slit. Meaning that in regards to killing practices, there is no real difference between halal and non halal slaughter. This is because many sheep are incorrectly and carelessly stunned due to the fast-paced environment of the slaughterhouse and the precision required to effectively stun and kill the animals.
“THE QUESTION IS NOT, “CAN THEY REASON?” NOR, “CAN THEY TALK?” BUT “CAN THEY SUFFER?”
In their ability to suffer, non-human animals are the same as us – they seek comfort, they seek safety and they seek a life free from pain. Worth of life is not dictated by notions of intelligence or appearance but instead is equal amongst all living beings. It can never be moral to inflict unnecessary suffering on to another being and as such, killing non-human animals for food, clothing or any other reason can never be morally justified, as we live in a society where alternatives are easily available. It is believed that taking the life of an animal who does not want to die can be done in a humane way. However, this very concept is an oxymoron as you cannot kill someone who wants to live in a compassionate or kind way.
We can no longer cling on to ideas of high welfare farms or humane slaughterhouses, as to deny someone their freedom, commodify and mutilate their body, take away their babies and take their life can never be done without exploitation or abuse. It is ignorance that allows us to consume and purchase without considering the industries that we are supporting. And therefore, informing ourselves of the horrors our purchases perpetuate is not only a liberation for the animals, but indeed for ourselves as well.
From this moment on you can no longer say that you didn’t know.
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Land of Hope And Glory: An Open Letter From The Filmmakers To The RSPCA by Ed Winters