Ground-breaking, virtual reality, pig farm footage released

Together with Farmwatch we have released a brand-new investigation into pig farming in New Zealand, using both hidden camera footage and a ground-breaking, New Zealand-first, look at a pig farm with virtual reality technology.

The footage was obtained by Farmwatch at a pig factory farm in the Waikato, using both hidden and hand-held cameras. It shows mother pigs (sows) confined in farrowing crates, (cages in which they are kept on factory farms once they have given birth), in which they are unable to turn around for weeks on end and can even struggle to lie down. Their extreme boredom causes them to repeatedly bite at the bars and one sow is shown desperately trying to escape the cage. The footage also shows a sow being repeatedly jabbed in the head with a pipe and piglets being thrown into containers, while their distraught mothers cry out.

The unique immersive experience of viewing footage obtained by 360 degree-cameras in virtual reality, allows a powerful insight into what life is like for sows imprisoned in farrowing crates. The footage shows a farrowing crate from inside and the interior can be viewed from all angles.                                                                                                                      

“Suffering of animals on New Zealand pig farms is sadly common place. Despite continual public outcries over the years, sows are still confined in metal cages little wider than themselves, living a life of misery,” says SAFE campaigns director Mandy Carter. “Virtual reality will allow the public to experience what NZ Pork would rather they did not see. Now, with the 360-degree footage, people can see for themselves and understand the desperation and boredom these animals experience every day.”

Farrowing crates, used by some of the New Zealand pig industry, breach the Animal Welfare Act because they prevent pigs from expressing their normal behaviour. The government animal welfare committee, (NAWAC), agrees that farrowing crates do not meet the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, yet is about to introduce a new regulation that only requires the cage to be bigger than the sow inside it.

Following our earlier campaign, sow stalls (in which pigs were held throughout their pregnancies), were banned on cruelty grounds in 2010. Farrowing crates subject sows to the same mental deprivation and emotional stress. It is time for the current government to take action to uphold the law in New Zealand and ban these cruel crates, as the pork industry has shown it is not going to change without pressure.

We are calling for an immediate ban on farrowing crates and have launched a petition calling on the government to ensure mother pigs stop being confined in cages.

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26 July 2017