RSPCA suspends freedom food farm pending investigation

The RSPCA has suspended a farm from its Freedom Food assurance label, pending further investigation, after images of ‘poor practices’ on two pig farms managed by the East Anglian Pig Company (EAP) was released by animal rights activists.

Footage apparently showing pigs being hit and kicked was filmed by vegan group Animal Equality at Little Thorns Weaner Unit near Swaffham, and the Piggery at Didlington. An undercover investigator worked at the two units for 29 days.

The RSPCA said that it was also concerned about footage showing poor handling of sows and younger pigs, as well as the inappropriate methods of culling and poor implementation of culling practices, which were not in line with Pig Veterinary Society guidelines.

It confirmed that an investigator visited the farms as soon as they were notified. An urgent meeting was arranged and the charity will also undertake regular unannounced meetings at the farm. However it is working with EAP and will not be prosecuting.

EAP has also started a full internal investigation into the handling of livestock.

An RSPCA statement said: “Any animal welfare failures by Freedom Food members are totally unacceptable and are taken very seriously.

“From time to time, individual members can let us down – but these are very rare cases. We always take swift action when such breaches are brought to our attention.”

However, the RSPCA has expressed concern that the welfare breaches were not reported immediately, pointing out that although the footage was taken in January, it has only just been made available via the media.

It said: “This greatly concerns Freedom Food and the RSPCA. It is vital that if any individual or organisation has information relating to breaches of animal welfare they should inform the RSPCA immediately, otherwise they could potentially be allowing suffering to continue.”

In February, Animal Equality was forced to defend itself over why it chose to wait more than six months to report animal welfare abuse at a Norfolk pig farm. Visitors to its Facebook page questioned why the group waited so long to report the alleged abuse to the authorities, and why no-one approached the owner of Harling farm, where over 200 hours of footage was filmed over a period of 72 days to inform him about the behaviour of his employees.

The owner of Harling farm, Stephen Brown, committed suicide two days after Animal Equality published the footage. He was said to have been extremely upset about the prosecution and he had felt it was his responsibility, although he hadn’t been implicated in what was going on. The coroner at the inquest said that Brown had received abusive and malicious telephone calls as a result of the intense media scrutiny.

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>Animal Equality defends investigation