(Attention. Certain images are difficult to look at).For the second time in a few months, the producers of Parma Prosciutto, an Italian AOP certified product, have been singled out by animal welfare associations.Prosciutto is officially a product associated with the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy, but it's also associated with part of a region known as the "golden triangle"; Brescia, Cremona, and Mantua.An english journalist, Ian Birrel, teamed up with Italian association Essere Animali to film two of the pig farms where the meat is produced.In the media, producers of Prosciutto use images of happy pigs, farmed in open air, who are then transformed into ham in the "fresh air of the Apennines". Sadly, this image is far from the hellish reality these poor animals have to endure daily.However, in this investigation,which is reminiscent of another recent investigation done on Parma ham, we can see that the living conditions of animals do not take into account their well-being. You can see pigs injured, tails cut and locked in cages so small that they cannot turn around.A volunteer recounted what he saw:
Even on these farms, all pigs have their tail cut. This operation is performed without anesthesia at birth to limit the risk of cannibalism. The law obliges to improve the conditions of breeding. But, as the pictures show, these pigs still live in uncomfortable conditions and they end up biting each other's ears.
Source: Essere Animali
During the investigation, the British journalist and accompanying volunteers entered the pens, where they made a macabre discovery. In almost all of them were pigs' bodies that had not survived the breeding conditions. The pigs, still alive, are forced to live among corpses, some of whom had already been decomposing for several days.
Source: Essere AnimaliWith such living conditions which sees animals piling up in the mud, sharing their space with corpses - which often end up eaten by their fellow creatures - the survivors often get sick.In the video of the exposé, you can clearly see the pigs that are still alive are in terrible health, suffering from eye, skin and respiratory diseases caused by the contaminated air that they're forced to breath.As is the case with most farms, the pigs have no access to the outdoors, spending all their lives locked in a closed room. They are fattened up over a few months before being slaughtered.Most of the pigs in these farms have a blue tattoo on their body.This mark allows the farmers to distinguish pigs intended to be processed into Prosciutto PDO, a product supposed to be of quality.
Source: Essere AnimaliDespite this, the local agri-food industry is protected by european law.And for good reason, the production of Parma Prosciutto, which has made the city a city of gastronomy by UNESCO, provides work for 50,000 people in more than 4,000 companies.Of the 9 million pigs farmed in Italy, 4,5 million are dedicated solely for the production of Prosciutto, in the Po Valley. Between them, only 35,000 are farmed according to organic criteria.
Source: Essere AnimaliThe exposé was shown all over British media where it resonated very strongly. And for good reason, the United Kingdom is the first importer of Prosciutto, with around 300,000 whole hams and 18 million pre-cut hams per year.Robert Bennati, vice-president of the Lega Anti Vivisection association, said:
How can one think of selling a high quality product at such exorbitant prices when the animals live in these conditions?
Indeed, these products are sold at a high price, both in Italy and in Europe. For associations, it would be fair for some of the gains to be directed towards improving animal welfare. However, the leaders of this industry that bring in millions do not seem to agree.The Prosciutto / Parma Ham Consortium responded to the two recent investigations by saying that their purpose was simply to unfairly criticize the product.
For the association, animal welfare should be a central concern:
Most of these animals live on intensive farms, locked up in overcrowded cages or pens, and never come out of them. Our investigations are a call to society, consumers and institutions to change these methods that cause great suffering in these sensitive and intelligent animals.
Below is the video exposé filmed by Essere Animali and Ian Birrel.ATTENTION: Strong images