New York City, NY (July 7, 2022) — A major new investigation by Compassion in World Farming released today (July 7) reveals the immense suffering of sows in cage systems on European farms—including those supplying products popular in the U.S. such as "premium” Parma and Bayonne hams.
Around eight million Parma-branded hams are produced in Italy annually—36% of these are exported. The U.S. is the world's largest export market for Parma ham, receiving more than 11.6 million pounds of the product in 2021. Around a million Bayonne hams are produced in France every year. Export numbers are unavailable, but Bayonne hams are reported to be exported to countries including the U.S.
Powerful new footage obtained as part of an investigation at 16 farms across Italy, Spain, France and Poland reveals the cruelty, torment and frustration that sows are forced to suffer in sow stalls and farrowing crates.
The investigation reveals that sows:
- spend nearly half their adult lives in cages so small they prevent practically all movement apart from standing up or lying down
- endure lying in their own excrement and urine, something they would naturally avoid
- experience the torment of being unable to properly nurture their young because of the restriction of the cages
- resort to abnormal behaviors such as bar biting and sham chewing because they are so frustrated.
Additional research from Compassion shows that, on average, Parma ham products are around 40% more expensive than equivalent U.S. hams. Yet the higher price is no guarantee of higher welfare. The caging practices documented in Compassion's investigation are banned in several U.S. states, such as California and Massachusetts.
Today, in reaction to the findings, the animal welfare and environmental NGO is sending a summary of the investigation findings to agriculture ministers across Europe and is urging supporters to send emails calling on them to press for a promised European Union ban on caged farming without delay.
"Americans who pay a premium for Parma and Bayonne hams are likely to be shocked to discover that these 'high-end' products are from systems that keep animals in such cruel cage conditions that have been banned in some U.S. states," said Ben Williamson, U.S. Executive Director. "Our investigation reveals that these sows are forced to live unimaginably miserable lives. They can't move around and properly nurture their young, and they're so frustrated they resort to abnormal behaviors like bar biting and sham chewing.
"That's why we're urging European agriculture ministers to introduce the ban they promised without delay, and we will continue to campaign until we End the Cage Age. As goes Europe, so often goes the rest of the world.
"Ending this kind of factory farming and shifting towards regenerative farming practices which are nature and welfare positive, are also vital for ensuring long-term sustainability and food security."
Last year, the European Commission publicly committed to introducing legislation to end the caging of European farmed animals. This commitment was made in response to the European Citizens' Initiative "End the Cage Age," led by Compassion, which gathered 1.4 million verified signatures from citizens across Europe and was the first successful initiative for farmed animals.
A report released in March showed that a smooth financial transition could be achieved for farmers when the E.U. introduces a ban on cages. The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) report, Financing the cage-free farming transition in Europe, shows that both E.U. and national financial mechanisms can be used—some of which are already available to farmers—to support the transition to cage-free animal agriculture across Europe.
For more information about the investigation and how you can support the campaign, visit www.endthecageage.eu
For more information or to schedule an interview, please email Ronnika.McFall@ciwf.org.
- View a report of the full investigation
- Images of the investigation in all four countries
- View a media reel of footage from all four countries with an accompanying shot list
Notes to Editors
Compassion in World Farming was founded in 1967 by a British dairy farmer who became horrified at the development of intensive factory farming. Today Compassion is a global movement dedicated to ending factory farming and achieving humane and sustainable food. With headquarters in the U.K., we have offices across Europe, in the U.S., China and South Africa. To find out more about Compassion in World Farming, visit www.ciwf.com
Learn more about Compassion in World Farming's sustainable and humane agriculture solutions.
Ronnika A. McFall, APR
Media Relations Manager
Compassion in World Farming USA