Disturbing discoveries about Portugal’s animal welfare.jpg

Disturbing discoveries about Portugal’s animal welfare

ANIMAL, PORTUGAL’S leading animal rights group, has released two shocking reports about the state of animal welfare in Portugal.

For the first time in Portugal ANIMAL sent investigator’s undercover in several animal farming units in the Lisbon and Leiria districts. In the second report investigators showed a glimpse of Portugal’s role in the secret international fur industry.

The first report named What’s Really On Your Plate revealed the disturbing cost of the nation’s love affair with pork, beef, chicken, turkey and duck and, furthermore, exposed the reality behind the seemingly innocent dairy products that the Portuguese consume each day.

Supporting the report, a 12 minute video has been released showing the extent of the cruelty to pigs, cows and poultry.

The film showed pigs crammed into poorly lit, barren holding pens, with no straw or bedding. At one industrial scale pig farm near Sintra, investigators were shown artificially inseminated animals held in disturbing battery style crates, unable to turn around or fulfill any of their natural needs. Workers described how sows have about eight pregnancies within three years and are then sent to slaughter.

Piglets are born onto wooden or concrete flooring, and live their first weeks confined to these battery crates, before being moved to fattening rooms when they are about 40-days-old. However, they are breastfed for only 22 days or less, given the fact that the place is too small for the number of animals they have.

Key benefits

Workers at the factory highlighted some key benefits of the system with one man saying “having many pigs together is good because it is easier to watch them”, furthering “the fact that they are not able to walk also helps”. According to workers from one farm, the only problem it has is that “it is too small for the number of animals, which makes the cleaning more difficult”.

Miguel Moutinho, director of ANIMAL, said: “The concerns are clearly not related to animal welfare.”

ANIMAL’s investigators witnessed the brutal and unrelenting loading of animals for their journey to the slaughterhouse. The video showed pigs being violently beaten and forced into tiny cages for journeys that can last many hours, which they spend lying on their side often with visible marks and open wounds from their beating. There is little or no access to food or water. This is illegal under existing EU and Portuguese animal welfare legislation.

At the slaughterhouse many piglets are still conscious as they have their throats slit. Some are still alive afterwards. This is illegal, as existing EU legislation on the protection of animals in the time of slaughter stipulates the obligation of effectively stunning the animals in order to make them fully unconscious at the time of slaughter. That is not, however, what happens to them at this slaughterhouse, as ANIMAL’s investigators witnessed and filmed.

Disturbing footage

The investigation followed the production of many dairy goods as well. In various locations across Portugal, video footage showed millions of egg-laying hens crammed into windowless sheds for their entire lives, caged in tiny battery units, unable to move freely or exhibit natural behaviour. Each hen is allocated a floor space smaller than a standard A4 piece of paper.

Milk producers too are increasingly adopting zero grazing systems. This cheap dairy product is consumed by millions each day – as a drink, in cheese and as an ingredient in many further food products.

At a major dairy farm near Sintra, investigators found cows kept in dirty, barren and crowded conditions for months, even years, at a time. Cows are forced to lie or stand on concrete, slurry covered floors and in battery style cubicles.

The second investigation named The Real Fashion Victims offered, for the first time, a rare glimpse into Portugal’s role in the secretive international fur trade, namely rabbit fur. The nine minute film supporting the report shows people in Lisbon’s shopping districts admiring fur clothing in windows. The action then changes to rabbits being subjected to relentless artificial insemination techniques in atrocious conditions. While shoppers admire they’re new purchases, rabbits that are shown living in dark sealed boxes with a worker coming each morning to sift through them, separating the dead from the alive. The film finishes showing the rabbits in the skinning factory, tied upside down in a factory line before being skinned alive.

“ANIMAL’s investigation has lifted the lid on the unreported plight of millions of farm animals across Portugal and the illegal workings of the fur industry,” states Moutinho, concluding “we hope that these films may help put a stop to the inhumane and illegal methods that are operating throughout Portugal”.

To view the reports and videos in English and Portuguese, visit ANIMAL’s new media website www.tvanimal.org