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Major investigation reveals suffering of sows awaiting cage ban

News Section Icon Published 7/7/2022

Sow in stall

Our major new undercover investigation released today (7th July) has revealed the immense suffering of sows in cage systems on EU farms – including those supplying ‘premium’ hams Parma and Bayonne.

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

Cages prevent almost all movement

The farms investigated include those supplying so-called ‘premium’ products – Parma and Bayonne hams. Our investigators found that sows on these farms were kept in the same extreme confinement as those on ‘standard’ farms; confinement typically endured by an estimated 85% of sows in the EU.

Our investigation reveals that sows:

  • spend many weeks in cages so small they prevent practically all movement apart from standing up and 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 cage
  • resort to abnormal repetitive behaviours like bar biting and chewing the air because they are so frustrated.

We’re sending a summary of our investigation findings to agriculture ministers across Europe and urging our supporters to take action calling on them to press for the EU ban without delay.

EU committed to cage ban

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 us, 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, our Global Head of Campaigns.

“Our investigation reveals that these farms are no better than standard ones – the animals are still caged for a significant part of the lives, 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 factory farming.”

Smooth financial transition possible

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.

Read more about our work to End the Cage Age.

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