New video by animal rights activists shows that little has been done to improve conditions at Finnish pig farms
“Hardly anything has changed in the past two years”, activists claim
According to animal rights activists, the living conditions of pigs at many of Finland’s pig farms have not improved. Two years have passed since the activists secretly filmed the condition at 30 different piggeries prompting a heated debate over the welfare of the animals.
This year a group of activists have filmed new footage. Helsingin Sanomat was shown the material on Monday afternoon.
Based on the images, the animals live in cramped and dirty conditions. Some dead and partly eaten pigs were also seen lying in the pens.
The filmed footage was presented by Saila Kivelä, one of the accused activists in the court case that followed the secret filming of two years ago.
Last week a court in Salo acquitted Kivelä and her fellow activists - who had shot the December 2009 video material - of all charges of aggravated defamation.
One defendant, Karry Hedberg, who was considered by the prosecution to be the main defendant, was given a 20-day suspended sentence for disturbing the public peace.
The latest material contains footage shot by about ten different activists at 15 separate pig farms in various parts of the country.
This time Kivelä has not taken part in the filming.
Just like in 2009, the activists entered the piggeries at night in secret without the knowledge of the owners. Some of the video clips are from last spring, while some have been filmed in recent weeks.
“Either the doors of the piggeries were open, or the key was easy to find. These were not forced entries. No locks or anything else were broken”, Kivelä described.
In the videos the exact locations of the pig farms are not revealed, but the names of the municipalities where the filming has taken place are mentioned.
According to Kivelä, some of the featured farms are the same as in the 2009 video.
The material contains footage from pig farms of different sizes. The largest one is permitted to keep 850 sows and 24,000 shoats annually.
”The stir caused by the previous filming has done little to improve the conditions at the farms. In intensive production there is no room for animal welfare considerations. The pigs are looked after only to the point that it makes financial sense”, Kivelä explained.
“The pig is an intelligent animal, which in many ways resembles the dog. In intensive piggeries the tiny shoats are lively and playful at first but soon become apathetic.”
“If dogs were being treated this way, nobody would say that they are being treated well. The wellbeing of production animals is not the same thing as the wellbeing of pets.”
Kivelä admitted that the images were made public just before Christmas with deliberate intent. Ham is the most important seasonal product on the Finnish Christmas table.
“Partly the aim is to remind people of where the ham originates. People’s choices exercise an effect on animal production. Hopefully everybody will draw their own conclusions based on the videos”, Kivelä continued.
An amendment drawn up by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to the regulations defining how farmed pigs are to be treated is about to be sent out for a round of comments.
The proposed changes have to do with space requirements and requirements for the floor structures of the pens.
According to Kivelä, while waiting for the amendment, hardly anything has changed.
“As far as I know, the number of inspection veterinarians has been increased, but I have no knowledge of what the impact of this has been in practice.”
Martin Ylikännö, the chairman of the pig producers’ association, considers the videos filmed by the activists agenda-driven.
”Their aim is not to improve the living conditions of the pigs but to terminate the entire industry in Finland”, Ylikännö says.
”The filmed clips show sick and dead animals, but from the footage it is impossible to determine if the activists have been filming the sick pens. Pigs often die at night, and the dead ones are collected away during the next attending round."
“A couple of dead shoats were also seen in the material. On average one shoat from each farrow will die.“
Each year provincial veterinary officers pay more than 8,000 inspection visits to the Finnish pig farms.
Large farms are inspected once a month and the smaller ones four times a year.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Animal rights activists acquitted on nearly all counts in secret videotaping of pig farm conditions (16.11.2011)
Court case against makers of pig farm videos starts in Salo (25.10.2011)
Animal rights activists who secretly filmed Finnish pig farms two years ago may now face prison (30.8.2011)
Agriculture Minister promises improvements at pig farms (21.12.2009)
Three Finnish pig farms may face charges over violation of animal welfare legislation (4.3.2008)