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Live pigsty film provokes fury at 'animal hell'

Published: 23 Jan 2013 06:07 GMT+01:00

Farmer Werner Schwarz said he was astounded by the furious reaction on Facebook after posting a link to live pictures of his pigsty in Schleswig Holstein.

The feed is hosted on the web page of the Schleswig Holstein Farmers' Association, of which Schwarz is president.

Refreshing every 20 seconds, the pictures show Schwarz's farrowing hut - where sows are kept for three weeks after giving birth to a litter of piglets.

The sows are kept in 'farrowing crates' - small, iron-bar bays with slatted floors, too narrow for them to turn around in, so that they can only stand, or lie down on their sides to feed their young.

Pictures from the overhead camera shows mothers separated from the piglets in the surrounding pen by metal bars.

Schwarz explains in the caption below the pictures that this is a measure taken to stop the sows accidently crushing their piglets to death when they lie down.

Although the arrangement is familiar to anyone with experience of livestock farming, it seems part of the wider German public had never dreamt such facilities existed - and became very upset when they saw the pictures.

All hell broke loose after the link appeared on the otherwise bucolic SH Farmers' Association's Facebook page.

"I keep staring at the pictures and just want to free the sows from these perverse cages… It's so unbelievably sad… All my tears are not enough," wrote user Natalie Pongracz.

The post then received more than 1,000 comments in just a few days, many from outraged users denouncing the "torture" of animals and calling for an end to intensive livestock farming.

"Animal hells like this only exist because there are many people eating a lot of meat," wrote Facebook user Stefanie Steindl.

"What's this supposed to be? Torture porn?" wrote user Markus Will.

"Wow, great cinema!" wrote user Sebastian Sievert sarcastically. "Just 21 days stuck without being able to move at all. And then after that back to a grandiose one metre square place on a slatted floor to be trapped in your own excrement and urine, without sunshine, straw and quality of life... until you die."

By Tuesday afternoon, less than two weeks after it was posted, the web feed Facebook post had received 1,200 comments, been shared 90 times and received 68 "Like" votes.

But although he was taken aback by the fierce reaction, Schwarz, who keeps 500 sows on his farm near Bad Oldesloe in northern Germany, said he was ultimately be glad of the attention.

He said he believed more people should be made aware of standard industrial livestock farming practices - which is why he decided in mid-January to post the web feed - in a drive for increased transparency.

"Consumers should see what we do here," told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper at the launch of the web feed on January 9th. "I believe we have nothing to hide. We're doing nothing illegal inside."

The Facebook discussion came as politicians mull a reform to animal protection laws, and just after 25,000 people took to the streets of Berlin at the weekend to demand an end to industrialised farming.

The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

09:07 January 23, 2013 by Anny One again
Why all the negative comments?

It looks cleaner,as in my living room.

Schweinerei !!
09:35 January 23, 2013 by jg.
Sow stalls have been banned in the UK and Sweden for some time but an EU wide ban came into force from 1st January 2013. Does this mean that, as is already the case with the EU regulation banning cages for battery hens (came into force 1st Jan 2012 after a 13 year phase out period), Germany is not compliant?

It is hardly the hallmark of a good EU member to be routinely flouting so many EU regulations, particularly when member states have had over a decade to adjust to the new rules.
11:37 January 23, 2013 by yllusion
We want conscious farming and livestock production, but that alone will not solve the problem if people don't start eating less meat. Demand is the main driving force for this type of intensive farming.
11:50 January 23, 2013 by lucksi
How dare he destroy my vision of bacon ect coming from some magical place.
12:25 January 23, 2013 by michael4096
@jg. - a couple of corrections

Sow Stalls or Farrowing Crates are outlawed in both countries and by EU directive. Sows must be kept in social groups and free to move. These devices are allowed in both countries and by EU directive from a few days before birth to a couple of weeks after for protection of the piglets because being squashed by mum is their single biggest danger at that age. Defra, the UK government department admits that it isn't a great solution but doesn't have a better idea.

Classic battery cages for hens have been outlawed in Germany since 2007 and enriched cages since 2009 - while the UK was embarrassed by news that the old sort were still in use in the UK by a few farms in 2012. The EU has found the following countries are failing to deal with the battery hen problem: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain. Perhaps, you are confused by "kleingruppenhaltung (small group cages)" which are permitted by the EU but not a great solution and the Germans have promised they will be all gone by 2020 - however, they are still ahead of the pack.

Generally, Germany and the UK tend to agree on animal welfare. It is human welfare where the disagreements begin.
12:34 January 23, 2013 by ichbines
The farmer should be made to lie in such a thing for three weeks!

People do not understand that vegetables, fruit, nuts and beans provide ALL the protein the human body needs.

And if you taste meat and really pay attention to how it tastes, its BORING. Much more boring than everything else. Why do McDonalds load their burgers with tons of sugar, salt and other things? Because they would not sell otherwise.
12:46 January 23, 2013 by raandy
The more pictures I see like this and recently how poultry is treated and beating steers and cows to make them walk to slaughter for those tasty Big Macs makes me more inclined to remove meat from my diet.
13:29 January 23, 2013 by JWS
We raise our own pigs and the pork if of much better quality than factory raised pork.

If you demand low prices, farms will turn into factories. If we buy from small farmers who use methods that you are comfortable with we will all eat better, be healthier and there will will be many more jobs for farmers.
15:47 January 23, 2013 by Bulldawg82
@ JWS

Absolutely. For those of us who will not give up meat, this is the best option.

Vegetarian is Native American for "Bad Hunter". :^D
15:47 January 23, 2013 by mesca
#6, bad meat is boring. Meat produced at a smaller scale and coming from hunting is often delicious.

Good for you if you can find everything you need in vegetables and the rest of what you describe, but I can't. You live in a cartoon world if you think Popeye finds all his iron in spinach.
13:10 January 24, 2013 by ichbines
I am not suggesting people become vegetarians but humans can definitely sustain and in fact live longer lives when they eat less meat. There is tons of information on the internet that support this. Humans can easily get by on just a few small servings of meat a week. Just take a look at our biological closest relatives, chimps and gorillas, very strong muscular healthy (when living wild) beasts whose diets consist of about 1/2 fruit, about 2 % meat and the rest nuts and green vegetation. And vegetarians do not die of iron deficiency and very few even get sick because of it. If we followed the 5 to survive philosophy, we would not even be able to eat the amount of meat that we over consume, because fruits and vegetables do satisfy because it is what we are supposed to be eating. We eat tons of meat because it leaves us hungrier
15:05 January 24, 2013 by sonriete
Men eat meat so they can be strong as an ox, but forget that the oxen are all vegetarian .
11:58 January 25, 2013 by Firmino
This is an awful way to treat animals. And how naive was that guy thinking that people wouldn't mind this?
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