Organic Consumers Association

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Using Film to Square Up to the Horrors of Factory Farming

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page, Breaking The Chains page and our Factory Farming & Social Food Safety.

Pig Business charts the rise of Smithfield Foods, now the world's biggest pork producer, and its expansion into Poland and Romania where it dominates the industry, taking advantage of low capital costs, cheap labour and unenforced regulations. Both countries, expecting employment and the benefits of inward investment have woken up too late to the aggressive and predatory nature of a business whose profits go to global investors while stench, pollution, disease and bankruptcies are the costs paid by local communities.

In the film, the author and environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jnr explains that these are 'externalised' costs are borne all of us. "Smithfield Foods cannot produce a pork chop more cheaply than a family farmer without breaking the law", he says.

In the UK, welfare laws are among the highest in Europe, and yet meat is imported from farms in Europe which use methods that are illegal in the UK. The result is that British farmers cannot compete and fifty percent of the UK pig herd has been lost in the past 12 years, farmers have lost their livelihoods and communities have broken up. If public bodies such as schools, prisons and hospitals had supported UK farmers, as the French government supports theirs, by sourcing outdoor or high welfare pork from British farms, those farmers might still be on their land.

The UK NGO Compassion in World Farming surveyed factory farms in 5 EU countries and found between 70 per cent and 100 per cent of farms they visited were failing to obey the EU Pig Welfare Directive which requires that pigs are given straw or similar material, and are not routinely tail docked. In January 2013 the long awaited EU ban on sow stalls is due to begin, although it is not a complete ban - factory farms will still be allowed to abuse the pregnant sows by confining them in narrow metal cages known as 'sow stalls' for around two months a year, and will also be allowed to keep them in farrowing crates in which they cannot turn around for a further two months a year.

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