Main image: © Compassion in World Farming
A major new investigation by Compassion in World Farming reveals the immense suffering of sows in cage systems on EU farms – including those supplying ‘premium’ hams Parma and Bayonne.
Powerful new footage obtained as part of an investigation into at 16 farms across Italy, Spain, France and Poland reveals the cruelty, torment and frustration that sows are forced to suffer in sow stalls and farrowing crates as they await the promised EU ban on caged farming.
The farms investigated include those supplying so-called ‘premium’ products – Parma and Bayonne hams.
Investigators found that the cage systems in these farms were the same as those in ‘standard’ farms and typical of those currently endured by an estimated 85% of sows in the EU.
End the Cage Age
The investigation reveals that sows spend nearly half their adult lives in cages in so small they prevent practically all movement apart from standing up or lying down.
They must lie down in their own excrement and urine, something they would naturally avoid, and experience the torment of being unable to properly nurture their young because of the restriction of the cages.
The sows resort to abnormal behaviours like bar biting and chewing the air because they are so frustrated.
In reaction to the findings, the animal welfare and environmental NGO has sent a summary of the investigation findings to agriculture ministers across Europe and is urging supporters to send emails calling on them to press for the EU ban without delay.
Last year, the European Commission publicly committed to introducing legislation to end the caging of EU farm animals. This commitment was made in response to the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘End the Cage Age’, led by Compassion, which gathered 1.4 million verified signatures from citizens across the EU and was the first successful initiative for farmed animals.
Parma ham exports
Around 8 million hams branded Parma are produced in Italy every year, 36% of which are exported. With 757,000 hams sold in 2021, the USA is the top export market.
Just under half of all exported Parma is sold within the EU, though the UK is the top export market for pre-sliced Parma ham.
Around a million Bayonne hams are produced in France every year. Export numbers are unavailable, but Bayonne hams are reported to be exported to countries including the USA, Germany, Belgium, Japan and the UK.