Animal rights activists have once again revealed what’s now being called “systematic failure and animal abuse” at a wide range of Norwegian pork farms. Promises from Norwegian meat producers that their animals are well-tended have not been kept, according to shocking photos and video taken at 26 farms in eight Norwegian counties and 46 municipalities.
“We have seen animals wading in their own waste, suffering from open sores and dead animals piled up,” said Tor Malnes Grobstok of Nettverk for dyrs frihet (Network for Animal Freedom). Farms visited were both small family-owned enterprises and large-scale producers.
Grobstok claimed that the dominant Norwegian meat producer Gilde, part of Norway’s meat and poultry market regulator Nortura, and the Norwegian meat industry in general has “created a myth that pigs live a good life, but they do not.” The “myth” is an important part of Norwegian agricultural policy, that provides large subsidy to Norwegian farmers and tariff protection from imported meat, largely on the grounds that Norwegian meat production needs to be maintained has much higher standards than foreign producers.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) aired some of the results over the weekend of inspections carried out by the animal rights network. The organization’s inspectors claim they entered various barns “through open doors,” usually late at night, to document how the animals were actually living. A total of 85 inspections have been carried out over the past six years.
NRK broadcast horrific photos and video taken by the inspectors of animals crammed into tiny cages that don’t allow any movement, also of pigs with their tails bitten off by other pigs living in cramped and filthy quarters. Many of the animals were clearly sick, covered with infected sores and injuries, and forced to sleep in their own urine and manure. The network’s own website also shows photos of cannibalism among hungry animals neglected in concrete pens.
It’s not the first time such conditions have come to light, also after inspections by Norway’s own food safety authority Mattilsynet. Norway’s consumer council also accused Nortura in 2019 of not living up to either the image it promotes of clean and well-care-for animals at picturesque Norwegian farms, or advertising that “guarantees” pork sold by Gilde comes from pigs “that have had a good life.”
That warning came after more discoveries of horrific conditions at pork farms in Jæren in southwestern Norway in 2018. Agriculture Minister Jon Georg Dale ordered improvements back then. Photos suggest that major problems remain.
Confronted by NRK with the latest batch of photo evidence of abused animals, Nortura’s board leader claimed they “are not representative” of the Norwegian pork industry. Trine Hasvaag Vang is a farmer herself, and told NRK that it was “terrible” to see such photos.
“Animals should have a good life,” Vang told NRK, “but we don’t believe these photos represent the big picture of pork production in Norway.” She claimed they were taken at night, “when the farmer couldn’t say whether the animals were getting any treatment.”
She admitted that “we see things here that are entirely unacceptable, in regards to regulatory and legal violations.” She claimed, however, that promises made by Nortura and Gilde two years ago have been followed up. Around a dozen pork farmers have since gone out of the pork business, or are no longer allowed to keep animals.
The Nortura leader also claimed the organization now has “a good system for finding such flaws. We go out to farms and give advice to the farmers. We also get reports from the slaughtering firms and Mattilsynet.”
She had to admit, however, that “we find exceptions when we’re out in the field.” She claimed Nortura had now identified all the farms, visited them and didn’t find the same bad conditions. Two of the farms have since stopped raising pigs.