Secretly recorded footage released on Wednesday by the show stern TV revealed what happens inside the family farm of North Rhine-Westphalia's agriculture minister, Christina Schulze Föcking, who was appointed to the office two weeks ago.
The videos from Schulze Föcking's family pig fattening operation show seriously wounded animals with inflamed tails, the tissues on their backsides seemingly rotting away, as well as others with swollen limbs who limp along inside of a filthy stall. Some pigs there also appeared too small in size compared to the others, according to the show.
The group Tierretter (Animal Rescuers), which filmed the videos, says the images were captured between the beginning of March and mid-June of this year.
Warning: The below video may be disturbing for some viewers.
Schulze Föcking's husband and chief executive of the farm, Frank Schulze Föcking, issued a statement explaining that their pigs had been sick for a short time.
“During a short time period within the first half of 2017, there was an unusual progression of disease within the fattening operation, which required extensive actions for the well-being of the animals,” his statement reads.
Of the 940 piglets brought to the operation in March, and which “from the beginning displayed behavioural problems”, he said that 31 had to be euthanized or died themselves.
All checks by the area veterinary authority proceeded without objections, the minister's husband added, also noting that his wife has not been involved in farm operations since the beginning of July.
The minister herself responded to the footage in a short statement.
“The farm has issued a comprehensive response, very openly and in detail. All goings-on have been documented. Furthermore, the relevant authorities for animal protection with the region of Steinfurt has made a clear statement,” she wrote.
Public prosecutors in Münster are now reviewing the accusations that the farm violated animal protection laws. But public prosecutor Martin Botzenhardt explained that this does not constitute an official investigation process.
Botzenhardt also added that no formal complaints have been filed, neither by the animal protection advocates against the farm, nor by the Schulze Föcking family against the activists for trespassing.
But the animal protection foundation Albert Schweitzer Stiftung says it is preparing a criminal complaint, and in a statement called for the minister to be fired.
The Green party indirectly demanded that the agriculture minister step down.
“As agriculture minister, Ms Schulze Föcking is no longer trustworthy. As animal protection minister, she is totally misguided,” said Green party state parliamentary fraction leader Arndt Klocke in a statement.