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.