RSPCA suspends Freedom Food pig farm, pending investigation

A Freedom Food pig unit in Cheshire has been suspended by the RSPCA, following claims made by animal welfare campaigners.

The Hillside Animal Sanctuary claimed to have filmed mistreated pigs at a farm near Congleton operating under the RSPCA’s welfare scheme, Freedom Foods. In the video, lame pigs can be seen shuffling around on slurry-strewn floors, while others just lie in their own filth.

According to The Mirror, which first reported the claims, the unit supplies supermarkets and McDonald’s and the revelations will “dent Freedom Food’s image as the UK’s only scheme to focus solely on the welfare of animals reared for food”.

Strict welfare standards

In response to the claims, a spokesperson from McDonald’s, which recently announced its decision to source all of its pork from Freedom Food farms, said: “McDonald’s was disappointed to hear allegations of poor welfare standards on a Freedom Food-accredited farm that is expected to meet the RSPCA’s strict welfare standards. Along with many other retailers who invest in this higher welfare standard, we will be awaiting the outcome of the RSPCA investigation.
“Animal welfare is a very important issue for us as a company, as well as for our customers, and it is essential that we can give them confidence in the way their food has been produced and sourced.”


Meanwhile, an RSPCA spokesperson said the charity could not say much for legal reasons, but did add: “Any allegations of animal welfare failures on Freedom Food-approved farms are totally unacceptable and are taken very seriously.

“We can confirm the farm is currently suspended from the Freedom Food scheme, pending investigation.  As this is a live RSPCA investigation we cannot comment further at this time, but we will provide an update as soon as we can.

“The RSPCA and Freedom Food will always fully investigate each and every incident reported and take whatever action is needed.”

Industry response

Of the allegations a joint spokesperson from Bpex and the National Pig Association (NPA) told MeatInfo.co.uk that, although it was unable to comment on individual cases without visiting the farm, the English pig industry was “exceptional” in the global pig industry and said few countries had independent audits covering 99% of pig production.
“Consumers can be assured that whenever individuals or an organisation make allegations regarding the wellbeing of pigs that give cause for concern, it immediately demands the farms is thoroughly investigated by an independent inspector and also the RSPCA.
“NPA/Bpex understand there are no longer any pigs being kept on this farm.”

The farmer

Yet the farmer told The Mirror that he could not understand why his farm had been suspended. He told the paper: “Anyone who keeps any number of pigs will have one who is lame. You cannot avoid that.

“The farmer was also reported to have said he was happy with the way he treated his pigs and said out of a batch of 564, “I’ve only had eight deaths. Nobody can beat that”.