An anonymous complaint came in over our website concerning a pig farm where there was a concern about the welfare of the animals (left in dark conditions, in small metal crates). As with all of the complaints we receive, we try to investigate them and find a solution together with the person in question. If we don´t have any luck or are not received in a welcoming way, we pass the concern on to the nVWA authorities or LID. Today we arrived when the farmer was busy with his veterinarian. The farmer insisted that his stalls were bright enough with the lights turned on (the law requires at least 40 lux for 8 hours per day). There was nothing we could do about the metal crates (gestation crates) because these are still legal until 2013. The farmer kindly agreed to let us peek in via the barn windows to double-check the conditions inside. We ended up having a reasonable and polite conversation later with his wife, but were appalled at the reaction of the veterinarian, who was immediately angry with us being there, insisting there was no problem and accused us for wasting their time.
We hope that the farmer will not become defensive about this visit, but use this concern to motivate him to take more steps in improving the quality of life for his sows. Although still legal, it is indeed very sad that sows are kept all the time indoors, in low lighting (40 lux is just enough to read a newspaper) with nothing to do, not even turn around, in gestation crates. We can understand that the average person walking by was concerned for their welfare- the life of a sow on a factory farm is not very nice. Eyes on Animals looks forward to 2013 when gestation crates will be made illegal and replaced by group housing. We encourage farmers still using gestation crates to make the switch soon!
Laws are in place to ensure that animals have a minimum amount of space, lighting, feed and fresh water. But farm animals are more complicated than this; they have strong desires to express their natural behaviours and range of emotions. These are largely restricted on most industrial farms, leading to mental suffering such as boredom and extreme frustration. Another welfare issue common on farms is the animal health and the quality of the environment. The barn should be clean from parasites and drafts, and sick and injured animals need to be separated and treated in a timely manner. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Eyes on Animals regularly visits farms, both large and small, free-range and industrial, to check on the general condition of the animals and the housing environment. We compare what we observe with the requirements set in the national and EU regulations. We discuss with farmers if improvements are needed and how they can be achieved.