Harling Farm

Investigator's diary - Little Thorns Weaner Unit


“I arrived in Watton at the meat plant for my induction at 7:30.

Then I was taken with another person to the stores where we were given overalls boots, gloves and waterproof clothing. I was then driven to the site I would be working in first.

I was picked up by another worker who had just started at this site today aswell and quickly realised that everything I had just been taught and told was simply to cover their own backs. I got to the tea hut were I met the site manager who started to tell me he had worked for the company 'Bowes' for over 18 years as a slaughterman and had only been working with pigs for around 6 months.

He then joked about me being an undercover animal rights activist, and said he wouldn't like to see his face on Panorama.

There were around 9,000 pigs at this site in the cosey kennels and tents. We started by feeding them and whilst doing so I could see there were alot of dead piglets that had been pulled out already.

East Anglian Pig Co.East Anglian Pig Co.

I also saw all the usual hernias, prolapses and skinny pigs. Two of the kennels were filled with wet faeces and mud up to the pigs' knees.

The pigs were then moved out into a holding pen to be loaded up in the morning and taken to the finishing site. As the pigs left the kennels, you could see that their skin was red raw from lying in their own urine.”


“Today we had to load pigs on to what is called a skid, this is a trailer that sits on hydraulics and can be lowered right to the floor and then raised again once loaded with pigs. They load about 100 pigs at a push.

The manager had to unload other lorries as they turned up with food and straw so myself and another worker, who was apparently a manager at a unit until he got sent to work on this site, waited.

East Anglian Pig Co.East Anglian Pig Co.

We started to load pigs to be taken to the holding pen on site, ready to be taken to another site for finishing. All together we loaded about 520. As we were loading we came across a pig that was unable to use its back legs and he was pulling himself through the watery faeces which came up to his chest. We didn't load him, and I knew this pig would get its head smashed in.

It is a very strange site and there is not alot of routine or order. It is probably one of the worst farms I have worked on in terms of cleanliness and organisation. The tents were wet with insufficient straw and the feeders appeared to be very low.

Each tent houses around 120 pigs. They are weaners that weigh over 1kg and have been bred at different units. After being fattened and weighing up to 35kg they go to the finishing units owned by EAP. After that they end up in the slaughterhouse.”


“Today we started by checking through the pens for any dead piglets to determine weather there was food. At no time have I been told what to look for or what to check, and when we are checking through we do not have medication to administer to the animals.

We found 3-4 dead between us. I also found a piglet that looked as if his nose had collapsed, and he could barely breath. When I mentioned this to the manager, he just said "yes".

We were checking the kennels and I pulled out three piglets, two of whom were dead and the third was barely alive. I gave him to the manager who then started to bang its head against the corner of the kennel next door. He banged the piglets head five times before throwing him to the ground with the rest of the dead ones. He walked away leaving it bleeding and thrashing around on the floor.

Another very weak and skinny pig was found and again the manager decided to knock it on the head with an iron bar. I didn't manage to get either of these on video but I have the feeling that it will happen many more times.

We then loaded 500 pigs onto the lorry, so they could be sent to the finishing units. Piglets with prolapses and those who couldn't walk were thrown into a pen, so they could be killed with the bar afterwards.

There are no fixed days for feeding or for putting straw down. This meant that the pigs would often go without dry straw or food for days. But apparently it was much worse with the old manager.”


“Today was not so good as I was driving the tractor all day while we were feeding so I didn't spend much time with the pigs.

But in the one tent I did get to check I found a pig that could not use its back legs. I asked John the manager what we should do, and he said that it needed banging on the head.

East Anglian Pig Co.

He took the pig and started hitting him on the head. He hit the pig about three times, and then pig started to convulse and bleed. John walked away.

I had also seen him, from the tractor, earlier in the day, smacking the head of another pig against the corner of a kennel. He had just left him on a pile of other dead pigs while bleeding through the nose.

I observed 15 dead pigs in total today, two of whom I know for sure were killed.”


“Whilst checking through the pens today I found a piglet that I had seen and told the manager about before. It was pretty small compared to the others and seemed to have no nose. I was unsure if this was an injury or a birth defect but it was clear that the animal needed some kind of attention, which it had not received. This seemed to happen alot and I did not ever see medication being used unless it was put in the animals water.

East Anglian Pig Co.East Anglian Pig Co.

When collecting the dead pigs at the end of the day John put bailer twine around the hocks of the pigs, and looped it around the spike on the teleporter. Myself and Dan then went around the site doing the same with the bigger pigs and putting the smaller ones at the front and on the mud guards.

One of the big pigs hanging from the spike had a hole in its head from the bolt gun. It was covered in blood and its brains were covering its face. All together there was a total of 15 carcasses, the same as the previous day making a total of 30 dead or killed pigs in two days.”


“We started the day checking through the tents as normal. It had not been raining to hard overnight, yet the pens were like swimming pools of faeces, coming up to the top of my boots.

While I was checking through the tents I saw one that had two dead piglets in, and one had an injured leg and was unwell. It collapsed onto the floor landing on its side as the piglets around him sniffed to see what was wrong. When I mentioned ill piglets to the workers or manager, no one suggested medicating them. I had been told that pigs on this side of the field were more susceptible to illness, because they came from a much cleaner environment, and so when they arrived their immune system could not handle the change and they became ill and often died.

East Anglian Pig Co.East Anglian Pig Co.

As I came out of the last pen Dan and John were stood talking. I then realised Dan had a piglet under his arm and it seemed ill. It had no marks on it to show that it had been medicated but it was obvious that the piglet was going to be killed. Dan walked to the edge of the pen holding the piglet under one arm and holding an iron bar in the other hand. He climbed over the pen and while still holding the piglet, he smashed the iron bar over his head and then dropped him to the floor. The piglet was still conscious and making noises. Dan stood beside the piglet and brought the bar crashing down on the piglet's head one last time, leaving him thrashing around on the floor.

Later on I was driving the tractor while John and Dan were opening the tents to make things easier. At the back of one of the tents, there was a piglet hanging from ropes. The animal was hanging like a piece of rubbish and had been there since we checked the tents that morning. It must have been thrown out the back like all the other dead ones. Dan tried to untangle the piglet but quickly got bored and ripped it from the ropes by his back legs and tossed him to the end of the row of pigs.”


“Whilst checking through the pens this morning I found a pig with its foot missing, it must have been here for some time and it now had an abscess. When I asked John what to do he came over and told me that it needed banging on the head. He then took the piglet under his arm and carried it over to one of the cosy kennels.

East Anglian Pig Co.

Again whilst checking through the pens we had to lift the sides up to let the slurry come out. This could have been avoided if they had the correct amount of straw, instead the pigs were left to wade through their own faeces upto their chest.

We had been loading pigs into the loading pen all day as we needed 600 to go out within the next couple of days. This was getting difficult as they pigs were all over the place.

As the pigs were loaded onto the lorry they were counted, whilst they were screaming and crushing each other trying to escape. Once on the lorry they are forced into different sections and locked in behind gates. This is one the most horrible noises I have heard, and one that will be hard to forget.”


“Today it was too dark to film when we started checking the piglets.

Another worker came from another unit, his name was Atu. We got through the daily checks very quickly and I then started doing the feed with Dan.

East Anglian Pig Co.

There were also weaners coming in. John the manager and Atu collected the weaners from the lorry. There were 516 in total. Some of them seemed to be in poor condition. Some piglets were orange coloured or pale, and I assumed they were all very thirsty, because they all started to drink from puddles once they were off the lorry.

Up to now I have seen pigs thrown over high hurdles and several pigs have been killed by being hit them over the head with metal bars. Other sick pigs have been put in kennels aong with the very sick ones. I heard that there was a guy called Kevin who is supposed to be a top manager, and he usually comes around to shoot the sick pig, but I still haven't seen or met him.”


“Today there were five of us as Kevin was in.

Kevin wanted to do a stock take also, so Atu, Dan and myself started to count pigs as we checked through them. Then a lorry turned up with weaners. There was supposed to be 380 but only 160 were sent, 100 of which were healthy and the rest were very small and unhealthy. Thirty of the skinny, weak piglets were so small that we had to put them into a kennel as these are smaller and warmer.

East Anglian Pig Co.East Anglian Pig Co.

As we were unloading I saw the driver pick a pig up and shake him, apparently trying to revive him. He then handed him over to Dan who put him in his coat to warm him up. After loading all the pigs, Dan was standing in the trailer and still had the collapsed piglet in his jacket. I touched the pigs eyes to check for a response, and the animal was still alive but very weak. Before I realised what he was doing, Dan had the pig by his back legs, above his head and swung him down crashing his head against the metal floor of the trailer. He then threw the pig to the side.

We then had to start vaccinating all the piglets as they were being counted and unloaded. Atu blocked the piglets in at one end, and Dan had the vaccination guns attached to bags for speed. Atu and I began to hand over the pigs to him, and he would then inject them in the neck with two syringe needles at the same time on both sides. The trailer was full of pigs waiting to be jabbed, while they werel squashing eachother. The small ones that were strong enough managed to climb on the backs of others but the weaker ones were trapped underneath.

I later found some crushed and very weak pigs in the corner of the trailer. Dan said to inject them anyway.

I met Kevin at the end of the day who told me that he had shot between seven and nine pigs as they were all 'rubbish'.”

Investigator's diary - Didlington, The Piggery


“Today was my first day at the breeding unit.

Once I found the site manager he directed me to the office where I got my boots and overalls. It was then break time, so we headed back to the office so I could wait for the two guys who I would be working with.

We then headed to the farrowing sheds to move some of the female pigs and their piglets to another shed. First they were moved out of the sow crate, this was done by the workers forcing the pigs to stand with a swift kick or two. If this still didn't make them stand up, the workers scraped the pigs' back with a metal to cause them discomfort.

East Anglian Pig Co.

Then the workers used a wood board to force one individual out of the pen, and twisted her tail to direct her. She was directed to a crate in another shed and her piglets were collected.

The older worker picked the piglets up and threw them in to the aisle. They bounced as they hit the floor. Afterwards, he started to pick them up by their back legs, three to foue piglets in each hand, and began taking them to the new farrowing crates. Once again, the animals were simply thrown into the crate, hitting the metal-grated surface.

We then had to ear tag the new gilts. New gilts are brought into the herd approximately every three months.

The workers clip teeth and tails at the farm. I could see piglets' tails on the floor, and the tools that we used to carry this procedure out were left lying around. I have not yet had the opportunity to directly see these mutilations been carried out.”


“Today I arrived at seven and Dan was already there as he lives in a bungalow on site. The manager was nowhere to be seen as he apparently arrives at 4:30am and then leaves at 2:00pm after driving around all day in the teleporter.

Once we had got our overalls and boots on we set off to feed. I went with another guy to feed pigs in one of the sow houses. This shed was full of pregnant pigs which had recently been artificially inseminated.

East Anglian Pig Co.

I was told that this was the last shed that the pigs were housed in, before going into the farrowing unit. The shed is divided by a middle walkway with pens on both sides. You can seenthe stalls with feeding trays, designed so that once the sow is in the stall, and eating, a lever can be pushed by a worker to close back the stall and trap the pig in. At the back of the shed, there was an open common area where there were groups of up to nine pigs.”


“I began working with Fred and we started by strawing up in the serving shed, which had already been mucked out into the passageway to be pushed out with the tractor while the female pigs were locked in the crates.

They train the pigs from young gilts to enter the crates by feeding them inside and closing the shutter behind them. They go into the crates, head first to get food from the feed. The crates are so small that the pigs can only just lie directly down on their stomach but not on their side.”


“Today I was left alone in shed six for a while and I managed to stand and I was able to watch the female pigs in the pens. The pens have 12 sow crates inside, and each crate is just big enough for a pig to fit in but not turn around.

East Anglian Pig Co.

It’s a very sad sight to see so many sows surrounded by metal and concrete. They were screaming, chewing the bars and shaking their heads in frustration. Almost like a mental asylum in a horror film, only this is real.

Whilst walking around the farrowing sheds I came across a litter that had recently had their tails docked, some were still bleeding and had not been cauterised properly. This could lead to infection and some tails were already black. A common problem as pigs' tails get infected and this goes to the spin, causing paralysis on the back legs.”


“Today I got to work in shed one, two and three, because I had Christmas day and boxing day off, so I have to cover the other workers who usually feed and check these sheds.

These sheds are where the fattening pigs are kept, mainly in darkness to save on electricity bills. They are kept in groups of around 12. This pigs just have some straw on a concrete floor, and each other to fight and play with.

Once I had finished feeding in these sheds, I had to go and check the field. The field is where the cosey kennels, and the weaners. There were two rows of kennels, some housed weaners of about 8kg, who had only been out for a few days, and the other kennels contained pigs at about 20-30kg, who were almost ready to go to fattening.

I walked up and down this row checking for ill and dead pigs, and also to see how much food the pigs had. I noticed a sick pig in the first pen that needed treating with antibiotics, but was now peddling on its side and not looking very well. I noticed that the feeder was empty and, when looking through the rest, I realised that all the other feeders were also empty. I told Fred and he brought over a pallet of weaner pellets and we gave each feeder a bag. He said that it looked like they had gone a couple of days without no food, and that they probably hadn’t been checked properly.

I told him about the ill pig in the first pen, and asked him to check it. Fred went to the pen before me, and when I got there, he had already pulled the animal out and thrown him on the floor. He grabbed a steel bar, stood over the pig and cracked his head open.

East Anglian Pig Co.

The pig then started to thrash around violently on the floor. Fred walked away to put the bar back, returned and stood on the pigs' throat. He said whilst laughing, “this is what you do to someone on a Saturday night!" He then told me that Mark wasn’t allowed to medicate the pigs yet, because Spider the manager, had not shown him how to do this, and that this was not right as the pigs suffered, and it made the work harder for them.

While explaining this, Fred was standing on the neck of the pig to try to stop him from breathing!

The pig had stopped wriggling, so Fred took his foot off the neck and picked the pig up, by the front leg, to carry him towards the tractor. He then threw the pig onto the pallet that was on the forks of the teleporter. I noticed that the pig was still alive and told Fred, "No, it’s gone", said Fred. I pointed out that the pig was still moving around on the pallet. Fred was still talking, as he put his hands around the pig's muzzle, holding it closed so it would stop breathing.

This was basically turning into a long, drawn out process of torture, and he didn’t even seem to recognise what he was doing. It appeared natural to him.

He then put out his cigarette on the floor, grabbed the back legs of the pig and swung his head onto the corner of the cosey kennel twice, and dropped him onto the floor. As the pig was wriggling around, Fred joked and said “damn! it broke the kennel with its head” as there was now a hole in the wood of the kennel.

The pig was lying on the floor, and moving around more slowly, Fred looked down and said "fucking die you cunt!....for fucks sake", he then steps on the pigs neck, to speed up the process. With a little bit of movement left in the pig, Fred picked him up by the front and back legs and dumped it on the pallet along with the rubbish. The pig layed there, still motionless, silent and with blood pouring from his nose, and with eyes wide open. All I could think was that the suffering of this pig had now finished at last…”


“Today I spent alot of time in shed six. This is where the sow crates are. The pigs are not locked in these but they do spend alot of time in them waiting for food, or just to escape the boar or female pigs wanting to fight.

The noise of hundreds of screaming sows is almost unbearable, and is so loud that I have to wear ear defenders. Along with this noise, the sows show distress by biting the bars and shaking their heads from side to side.

East Anglian Pig Co.East Anglian Pig Co.

Today we found a sow with a huge abscess on her rear left leg. We took her from the pen and Denny led her out the back and locked her between two gates. Before I could see what he was doing, he got his knife out and stabbed at the abscess. He twisted his knife whilst walking in circles with the pig, to prevent her from walking away. The puss and dark red blood, slopped out all over the concrete floor, and was steaming in this cold weather. It was pretty grim.


“As I arrived I went to feed and check the sheds. Today I was able to spend more time with the sows, who were about to give birth, or had done so recently.

Once inside the shed I could see there was a pile of dead newborn piglets. Many of them die from being crushed by their mothers, or from catching infections a few days after birth.

East Anglian Pig Co.East Anglian Pig Co.

I picked up a piglet who were screaming, and he had a big sore on his nose, which was bleeding. I mentioned this to the manager, who said he would keep an eye on him, without even looking at him…

I could also see many mothers had big, deep wounds from their constant friction with the metal bars. They also had open sores on their nipples, as the piglets would bite them. The mothers were unable to escape them as they were completely trapped in their crate.”


“I Began working with Fred, and started to straw up in one of the sheds, and check for dead pigs.

Later on in the day, whilst I was walking behind the sheds, I saw a pig with a blue rope tied across his muzzle. The pig's back legs were paralysed and as I walked closer to him he started to try to pull himself away on his front legs. His back looked sore, and he looked terrified.

East Anglian Pig Co.East Anglian Pig Co.

I can only assume that he had been pulled out from one of the fattening sheds, and then dragged by a worker, by the rope. He was then just waiting to be killed. Because he wasn't able to walk, he wasn't profitable anymore for the farm, and I couldn't do anything for him.

Tomorrow is my last day here, I won't forget all those faces and desperate eyes looking at me. I wish people could see them the same way I do. They are no different from any other animal. Pigs are no different to dogs… It is just a matter of realising that each one of us can stop all this suffering…”