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Undercover investigation reveals cruelty, torment, and frustration of sows on EU farms

News Section Icon Published 7/7/2022

A major new investigation by Compassion in World Farming released today (7th July) reveals the immense suffering of sows in cage systems on EU farms – including those supplying ‘premium’ hams Parma and Bayonne.                                                                                       

Powerful new footage obtained as part of an investigation into 16 farms across Italy, Spain, France and Poland reveal the cruelty, torment and frustration that sows are forced to suffer in sow stalls and farrowing crates as they await the promised EU ban on caged farming.                                                               

The farms investigated include those supplying so-called ‘premium’ products – Parma and Bayonne hams. Our investigators found that the cage systems in these farms were the same as those in ‘standard’ farms and typical of those currently endured by an estimated 85% of sows in the EU.
The investigation reveals that sows:

  • spend nearly half their adult lives in cages so small they prevent practically all movement apart from standing up or lying down
  •  endure lying in their own excrement and urine, something they would naturally avoid
  • experience the torment of being unable to properly nurture their young because of the restriction of the cages
  • resort to abnormal behaviours like bar biting and chewing the air because they are so frustrated.
    In reaction to the findings, the animal welfare and environmental NGO is today sending a summary of the investigation findings to agriculture ministers across Europe and is urging supporters to send emails calling on them to press for the EU ban without delay.

Last year, the European Commission publicly committed to introducing legislation to end the caging of EU farm animals. This commitment was made in response to the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘End the Cage Age’, led by Compassion, which gathered 1.4 million verified signatures from citizens across the EU and was the first successful initiative for farmed animals.

Around eight million hams branded Parma are produced in Italy every year – 36% of these are exported and the US is the top export market where 757,000 hams were sold in 2021. Just under half of all exported Parma is sold within the EU although the UK is the top export market for pre-sliced Parma ham.
Around a million Bayonne hams are produced in France every year. Export numbers are unavailable, but Bayonne hams are reported to be exported to countries including the USA, Germany, Belgium, Japan and the UK.

“People who pay a premium for products like Parma and Bayonne hams are likely to be shocked to discover that these ‘high-end’ products are from systems that keep animals in such cruel cages,” said Mandy Carter, Compassion in World Farming’s Global Head of Campaigns.

“Our investigation reveals that their farms are no better than standard farms – the animals still spend a significant part of their lives in cages, just like around 85% of the EU’s sows."

“They are forced to live unimaginably miserable lives. They can’t move around, properly nurture their young, or express natural behaviours, and they’re so frustrated they resort to abnormal behaviours like bar biting.
“That’s why we’re urging the EU to introduce the ban they promised without delay and we will continue to campaign until we End the Cage Age worldwide.”

“Ending this kind of factory farming and shifting towards regenerative farming practices which are nature and welfare positive, are also vital for ensuring long-term sustainability and food security.”

A report released in March showed that a smooth financial transition can be achieved for farmers when the EU introduces a ban on cages. The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) report, Financing the cage-free farming transition in Europe, shows that both EU and national financial mechanisms can be used – some of which are already available to farmers – to support the transition to cage-free animal agriculture across the EU.

For more information about the investigation and how you can support the campaign visit


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