Animal Equality, of Spain, collects video from 172 pig farms in just three years

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2010:

 

MADRID–Sharon Nunez, founder of the
less-than-five-year-old organization Animal
Equality, on May 19, 2010 disclosed that 70
Animal Equality volunteers between August 2007
and May 2010 “physically entered a total of 172
pig farms in 11 regions of Spain,” documenting
their findings with 200 hours of video and 25,000
still photos.
Nunez released 50 minutes of the video and 2,600 photos.
“This intensive work comprises the
largest investigation into animal exploitation so
far carried out in Spain,” Nunez said.
In actuality the Animal Equality
investigation was larger by itself than all
previous undercover probes of farms and
slaughterhouses combined, worldwide.
The Animal Equality volunteers “recorded,
amongst other events, how workers routinely kill
pigs by slamming them against the floor,” Nunez
said, or “how pigs are hit, kicked or have
fingers thrust into their eyes to force them to
stand or walk,” and witnessed “countless scenes
of cannibalism–as much on organic or
‘free-range’ farms as on factory farms.”


Nunez said that “97.1 per cent of the
farms visited–167 out of 172–were chosen at
random, demonstrating that the material obtained
is representative of the sector and not isolated
or biased. The remaining farms visited were
specifically chosen due to having received one or
more ‘Golden Pork’ awards, given by the
Institute of Food Technology & Research and the
Ministry of Rural & Marine Environments, to
farms considered to be exemplary.”
A vegan organization started in 2006,
Animal Equality gained access to farms in
Andalusia, Aragon, Castilla Leon, Castilla La
Mancha, Catalonia, Extremadura, Madrid,
Murcia, Navarra, the Basque region, and
Valencia, Nunez said. She hinted that further
investigations may follow, mentioning that “we
are currently active in the United Kingdom,
Italy, Peru, Venezuela and Colombia,” as well
as Spain.
Undercover video documentation of abuse
of farm animals appears to have begun in Europe
almost a decade after the first big U.S. exposés.
As in the U.S., European investigators were
initially limited to what they could videotape
from outdoors, having no way to get the bulky
video equipment of the time inside barns and
slaughterhouses. Much of the pioneering video
documentation in Europe was done by members of
the German/British charity Animals Angels, who
followed trucks hauling horses and other animals
from eastern nations to slaughtering facilities
within the European Union. Whenever the trucks
stopped, the Animals Angels videographers would
take the opportunity to take dimly lit close-ups
through the ventilation slats in the vehicles’
sides. Loading and unloading also presented
video opportunities.
Reportedly investigating factory farming
for 11 years, the Hillside Animal Sanctuary, of
Frettenham, Norfolk, United Kingdom, achieved
apparently the first big undercover video exposé
of conditions inside a European poultry barn in
April 2006. Four days after the videographer
recorded two employees of the Beck Farm in
Felthorpe, Norwich playing “bat and ball” with
live turkeys, the images were on television.
Bernard Matthews Ltd., the owner of Beck
Farm, suspended six employees in connection with
the incident: those involved, and those who
knew about it but did not stop it or report it.
The two main participants pleaded guilty to
cruelty.
A year to the day after the Beck Farm
video reached the public, the Scottish
organization Advocates for Animals used
undercover video to reveal extreme overcrowding
in battery cages on an egg farm near West Linton,
“owned or run by Scotland’s largest independent
egg producer, Glenrath Farms,” Advocates for
Animals director Ross Minett said. But the
Advocates for Animals exposé did not catch on
with mass media, and did not bring other
immediate results– although it may have helped
to inspire Animal Equality, whose video
investigations in Spain began soon after
Advocates for Animals began a public education
campaign using images from the West Linton probe.
More than two years elapsed before the
Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter and the Animal
Rights Action Network, of Limerick, Ireland,
scored simultaneous hits against abuses on pig
farms in May 2009.
Dagens Nyheter reinforced print coverage
posted to the newspaper web site with video clips
showing pigs so crowded that some stood on top of
others, while a farmer insisted they were “fine
as long as they have food and water.”
The ARAN exposé of conditions at a pig
breeding facility based in County Cavan, Ireland
“came about when an employee contacted ARAN to
report pigs had been killed with sledgehammers,”
said ARAN founder John Carmondy. The pig farm
worker also described sickly live pigs being
dumped to die among others who were already dead.
Video also disclosed cannibalism among the pigs.
“We worked quietly behind the scenes with
the employee,” Carmody said, “capturing the
cruelty on video through a camera phone. Once we
had enough cruelty documented, we contacted the
Department of Agriculture and local Gardai
(police) with details of the cruelty and laws
that were broken.” Then ARAN “went public with
the footage and released it to national press
with immediate pick up.”
In October 2009 the Polish organizations
Otoz Animal and Stradla Zwierzàt partnered with
Compassion in World Farming to use video of
alleged severe neglect at a dairy farm in
Janowice, Poland, to obtain help for 600
suffering cows.
The two Polish organizations had already
reported the situation to the Polish Chief
Veterinary Office, a CIWF press release said,
“but help was only forthcoming when the incident
was brought to the attention of the media and the
local police,” CIWF continued. After the video
aired on national television, CIWF said, the
Polish Chief Veterinary Officer ordered that 19
of the most badly debilitated cows should be
slaughtered. Though this was not the desired
result, it was an indication of the influence of
video.
Inside-the-barns documentation meanwhile
made a splash in Australia when Emma Haswell of
Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania on March 26,
2009 captured video of alleged cruelty and
neglect at Longeronong Livestock, of Gingin,
which produces about a third of the pigs whose
meat is sold under the Westpork Mindarra brand.
In August 2009 the company and an employee
pleaded guilty to one count of omitting to do a
duty which resulted in causing pain to an animal
and one count of management of an animal
reasonably likely to result in pain or
suffering,” reported Nick Clark of the Hobart
Mercury. The individual was fined $2,500
Australian currency. The farm was fined $10,000.
The Haswell video succeeded where
previous investigations had failed. Reported
Ronan O’Connell of The West Australian, “It is
understood the charge stems from an investigation
that began in early 2007 following claims by an
animal welfare group that pigs at the facility
had been forced to wallow in filth so deep they
struggled to walk and had been left to die slowly
once illness took hold. The police stock squad
and local government, health, agriculture and
immigration officials raided the Gingin piggery
in January 2007 after a complaint from the
group,” but the raid did not bring convictions
or lasting improvements in management.
Additional charges based on the January
2007 undercover video operation were brought by
the Department of Local Government & Regional
Development in early 2009, but dropped on June
8, 2010 “in light of technical legal
difficulties which came to the Department’s
attention at a late stage. Those difficulties
are not expected to recur in future
prosecutions,” said the Department of Local
Government & Regional Development in a prepared
statement.
Animals Angels continues using video to
document abuses in horse transport and slaughter,
most recently in Canada, Mexico, and Brazil.
Video clips from Animals Angels and the Canadian
Horse Defense Coalition were aired in April 2010
by television networks in Canada, The
Netherlands, France, and Belgium.

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