Westfleisch supplier: shocked by suspicion of animal cruelty - investigations

Pigs with bleeding wounds, abscesses, inflammation of the eyes and legs, and some dead or even decomposing animals in the barn: Shocking footage of sick and seriously injured animals from pig farms has triggered investigations by the public prosecutor and appeals to politicians.

Westfleisch supplier: shocked by suspicion of animal cruelty - investigations

Pigs with bleeding wounds, abscesses, inflammation of the eyes and legs, and some dead or even decomposing animals in the barn: Shocking footage of sick and seriously injured animals from pig farms has triggered investigations by the public prosecutor and appeals to politicians. The German Animal Welfare Office published the image material on Wednesday and denounced drastic abuses in fattening farms. The recordings are said to come from six companies in North Rhine-Westphalia - Münsterland and East Westphalia - and in one case from a company in Lower Saxony.

All of them are suppliers to Westfleisch, one of the largest pig slaughterhouses in Germany with several million slaughtered animals per year and billions in sales. The German Animal Welfare Association appealed to politicians and legislators in view of the pictures: "A lack of control mechanisms by veterinary authorities, treating veterinarians, transport companies, slaughterhouses and ultimately the food retail trade allow this unspeakable torment." In the past, animal rights activists had repeatedly pointed out unacceptable conditions and called authorities and investigators into action.

In the current case, the Münster public prosecutor is investigating possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act against three pig farms. The starting point are ads from the German Animal Welfare Office, said senior public prosecutor Martin Botzenhardt on Wednesday. The ads are accompanied by USB sticks with photos that are currently being checked. The German Animal Welfare Office is a non-profit association that, according to its own statements, wants to draw attention to abuses in factory farming, primarily with images and film material.

Video footage from early July

The public prosecutor's office in Detmold said that video material was received at the beginning of July showing animals with "injuries that were not treated or not treated properly". "After viewing the video material, there was an initial suspicion of a violation of the Animal Welfare Act," said a spokesman, referring to a company. The public prosecutor's office in Paderborn is to conduct investigations in two other cases.

The Westfleisch group of companies announced several measures. The allegations against the individual animal owners are taken very seriously and they are investigated "with all determination", Westfleisch emphasized when asked by the dpa. "Until all allegations have been finally clarified, we reserve the right to take sanctions up to and including termination of the supply contracts." The welfare of the animals kept is paramount.

The company in Münster now wants to check every affected company. In the short term, all delivery companies should also be inspected and the conditions there documented - also so that "the generally excellent work of our more than 3000 contractual partners is not discredited". Westfleisch will also expand its control network. Animals that are unfit for transport and slaughter are generally not accepted for slaughter.

Animals shocked with electric batons

According to the allegations, animals are said to have been mistreated with electric shockers during transport in some cases. According to the Animal Welfare Office, some of the fattening farms are said to have received six-digit EU subsidies, as reported by Jan Peifer, Chairman of the German Animal Welfare Office. The pictures had been leaked to the club in the past few months. The seven companies were highlighted as positive examples on the Westfleisch website, he said. "We could indiscriminately march into 30 other companies and would probably find similar conditions."

"The pictures show extreme situations, but these animal welfare violations are inherent in the system," said the President of the German Animal Welfare Association, Thomas Schröder. "Even the most willing farmer cannot make any lasting improvements to these conditions of warm housing, which are contrary to animal welfare but are legally permissible." Politicians must ensure better framework conditions. "Instead of banning systemic animal cruelty in warm stalls, the legislature continues to tolerate that pigs kept exclusively in slatted floors are exposed to a very high risk of becoming ill, injuring themselves and developing behavioral disorders."

The recordings are "shocking", the ZDF magazine "Frontal" quoted one of the criticized farmers. "From my point of view, we did everything that was possible." Piglets suddenly bit their tails massively, and an infection spread rapidly. The feed was analyzed, autopsies were carried out, pollutant measurements were carried out, but the problem was not solved for a long time together with the veterinarian.

Unannounced checks based on initial information

From the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Agriculture, it was said that anonymous information on animal welfare violations had already been received by the affected groups in early summer. There were then unannounced controls. "The reported violations were confirmed in four out of six cases," reported a spokesman in Düsseldorf. It is mainly about violations when handling sick or injured animals - such as veterinary treatment or emergency killing or failure to separate these animals.

According to the ministry, the responsible authorities ensured that the conditions were eliminated. Penalty proceedings have also been initiated. In addition, the video recordings of the animal rights activists would now be evaluated and analyzed. Jan Peifer has little hope for the fattening pigs: "There have been great promises for years. The state points to the federal government, the federal government to the EU. Working groups were founded and tightening controls announced, but nothing has improved."

According to the ministry, the responsible authorities ensured that the conditions were eliminated. Penalty proceedings have also been initiated. In addition, the video recordings of the animal rights activists would now be evaluated and analyzed. Jan Peifer has little hope for the fattening pigs: "There have been great promises for years. The state points to the federal government, the federal government to the EU. Working groups were founded and tightening controls announced, but nothing has improved."

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