An undercover investigation has revealed shocking footage of violent animal abuse on a farm owned by one of the UK's largest pig producers.
The footage, obtained by cameras hidden in Fir Tree Farm, Lincoinshire, shows farm workers laughing as they severely abuse squealing pigs.
Campaign group Animal Equality said it had recorded over 100 incidents of cruelty in 10 days that included pigs being kicked, prodded with pitchforks, sprayed up the nose with paint and, amongst other things, having gates slammed on their heads.
The investigation into the farm, owned by Elsham Linc – one of Britain’s largest pig producers - was sparked by an anonymous tip off and evidence of cruelty has been passed to the RSPCA.
The Godfrey Family, who own Elsham Linc, said it was "shocked" by its employees' "abhorrent behaviour" and terminated their employment following an immediate investigation.
One of the pigs in the footage, so unwell it couldn't move and had to be transported by tractor, was allegedly left without veterinary care for 48 hours before being shot.
“While intensive pig farms are inherently pitiless places, the brutality inflicted on these poor pigs is incomprehensible," said Dr Toni Shephard, Animal Equality’s UK Director.
She added: "The workers show complete contempt for the animals in their care and seem immune to their suffering, even when the pigs scream in pain. We demand that they be brought to justice.”
In response to the investigation The Godfrey Family released a statement saying "the footage is contrary to the standards and ethics that are the foundation of our business."
The statement said: "We voluntarily reported these incidents to the police and regulatory bodies and are cooperating fully with the RSPCA investigation, which may result in criminal prosecution of those involved.
"The behaviour depicted in the footage is contrary to the standards and ethics that are the foundation of our business."
Consumers in the UK are regularly encouraged to "buy British" for higher animal welfare, and Red Tractor certified farms, such as the one investigated, are supposed have responsibly reared produce.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said that following Brexit the UK will strive to become a leader in animal welfare, however this investigation raises questions over the treatment of British livestock.
This is the third time Animal Equality has exposed animal cruelty on British farms and the two previous investigations resulted in criminal convictions.
In 2012 two workers were filmed beating piglets to death with a metal bar on Harling Farm in Norfolk. Both men pleaded guilty to cruelty charges and one was sent to prison for 18 weeks.
In 2016 a worker on Pyrland dairy farm in Somerset was filmed slamming newborn calves to the floor and kicking cows in the face just hours after they had given birth. He pled guilty to two cruelty charges in April 2017.
Animal Equality investigators made multiple visits to Fir Tree Farm – which holds 10,000 pigs – between 1st- 27th April, 2018, and placed hidden cameras in the buildings where violence had been reported.
They also documented dozens of pigs with severe tail biting wounds, some critically infected, as well as many heavily scarred pigs and several with hernias.