WHAT I WITNESSED INVESTIGATING FACTORY FARMS DURING THE PANDEMIC

WHAT I WITNESSED INVESTIGATING FACTORY FARMS DURING THE PANDEMIC
 By: Clément Martz  |   Reading time: 6 minutes
Out of all the countries, why did you choose Sweden? We are one of the countries with the highest animal welfare standards in the world,” the police officer asked while I was being interrogated after photographing the conditions inside a pig farm. “Is keeping pigs indoors, unable to see the daylight, crowded in tight dirty stalls while standing in their own excrement until they are sent to slaughter at 6 months of age considered high welfare standards?” I replied.
In the last year, I have been to countless Swedish farms, documenting these so-called “high welfare standards” during the pandemic. What I have witnessed and documented shows me that the way these animals are being treated is an immediate concern. Their conditions are shocking and seeing them for myself was an urgent wake-up call.

COVID-19 has affected farmed animals across the globe. Although the virus has largely been transmitted between humans, animals raised for food have still felt the consequences. 

From animals being buried and burnt alive to slowed operations in slaughterhouses and worsening conditions in the West, millions of farmed animals are also victims of this pandemic.

In Sweden like most other countries in the world, factory-farmed animals are raised for food in confined and overcrowded conditions. According to the Swedish Board of Agriculture, Sweden has 63,000 farms and over 50 percent of Swedish farms have animal production. 

Each year, Sweden produces:2.6 million pigs100 million chickens8 million egg-laying hens290,000 tonnes (over 319,600 US tons) of cow’s milk
INVESTIGATING FARMS AROUND THE WORLD 

Animal agriculture keeps hidden the daily treatment of farmed animals. Hearing—and seeing—directly from undercover investigators what they have witnessed inside factory farms is a powerful eye-opener. Here at Sentient Media, we’re making sure their stories are told:The Forgotten Victims of Factory Farming: Lex Rigby, Head of Investigations at UK nonprofit Viva!, writes that fish farming is “the world’s fastest-growing food production sector, generating over half of the fish filling our supermarket shelves.”

“As with land-based factory farms, conditions on fish farms cannot easily replicate the complexities of an animal’s natural environment—leading to increasing concerns regarding their welfare,” writes Rigby.

Later this month, Rigby will join Pulitzer Prize winner Ian Urbina and undercover investigator Pete Paxton to talk about the impacts of industrial fishing in our next Sentient Session: Reporting Life at Sea. Learn more and register here.
 What a Dairy Farm Really Looks Like: “I remember their eyelashes,” writes Natalie Blanton, recalling the calves she met in childhood in Utah, growing up around “idyllic” dairy farms—and the realizations that led her to stop consuming dairy.

“As I matured, and after enough games of hide-and-go-seek among these rows of sheds housing tiny young calves,  I started to piece together a more sinister cycle taking place. It was a gradual tugging on threads of understanding, an unraveling of a dark truth behind those happy cows on those happy milk cartons,” she writes. 
 Stepping Out From Behind the Camera: After many years spent documenting factory farming, Gemunu de Silva now leads Tracks Investigations, an organization with over 250 investigations under its belt. 

“For such a staple of the animal advocacy world, Gem and Tracks have flown surprisingly under the radar. But that is by design. Up until this year, Gem avoided doing press, leaving it to the NGOs to draw the media’s attention to the cruelties his investigations exposed. It is only as the pandemic has forced a hiatus on the majority of Tracks’ projects that Gem has begun telling the stories of his decades-long career,” writes Claire Hamlett. 
 Helping Others Expose Animal Abuse: Now leading the investigations department at Animal Outlook, Erin Wing was once an investigator too, drawn to taking action for farmed animals after experiencing trauma and abuse herself. She shares what she saw inside factory farms, including a dairy farm where, she writes, “I reached the limit of what I could endure.”

“There, brutal violence was a daily occurrence. The last effort that I felt I owed to the animals before retiring from the field for good was holding out at Dick Van Dam Dairy for a few more weeks so I could rescue a newborn calf named Samuel. I found comfort in the fact that we escaped the dark world of factory farming together,” writes Wing.
Read more from Sentient Media.

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