French agriculture minister condemns ‘cruel practices’ after shocking video from intensive pig farm

The French agricultural ministry has condemned "unacceptable practices" after an animal rights group released a video showing pigs being mistreated on a factory farm in Burgundy.

French agriculture minister condemns 'cruel practices' after shocking video from intensive pig farm
(Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP)

A police investigation has been launched after the French animal rights group L214 published a video on Thursday, August 19th, from an intensive pig farm in the Yonne département in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.

The images are accompanied by the account of whistleblower Grégory Boutron, a former employee who has told how he quit his job and fell into depression after being shocked by the mistreatment of the animals. 

“What shocked me was seeing the person in charge relentlessly stab the sows with a screwdriver when they didn’t want to move, or hit them in the head with a metal bar,” Boutron said.

“They cut their tails with an iron,” and castrate piglets without anesthetic, he said.

Images filmed by Boutron with his mobile phone show piglets moving after being struck against the floor, and squealing while they are having their teeth and tails cut, as well as pigs being given electric shocks and red marks supposedly resulting from being prodded with a screwdriver.

“Before I left, they bought an electric battery, and when there was a sow that didn’t want to keep walking, they set upon her.”

Warning: disturbing images

Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie condemned the practices in a tweet on Thursday, and confirmed that authorities had already begun investigating the farm before the video was released.

“An investigation was launched in June following a complaint made against this farm. It remains ongoing,” the Ministry of Agriculture and Food said in a press release, adding that they “strongly condemn the unacceptable practices shown in these images”.

“If the inspection undertaken in June did not flag any unacceptable situations or behaviours like those seen in the video constituting acts of cruelty […] further investigations will be carried out.

“In addition, the castration of piglets without anesthetic, as shown in these videos, will be banned in France from January 1st, 2022.”

Local prosecutor Hugues de Phily confirmed to AFP that a complaint had been made in February and that the gendarmerie had been charged with undertaking a preliminary investigation.

The intensive farm houses 1,800 sows. It belongs to the Provent-SDPR group, which manages, directly or indirectly, a hundred pig farms across France, according to L214.

The organisation has called on the government to ban the practice of “thumping” piglets against the ground, as well as cutting their tails without anesthetic.

They have launched a petition which you can sign HERE.

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Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

The Freyr battery start-up has halted construction of its Giga Arctic factory and demanded additional government subsidies, Norway's state broadcaster NRK has reported.

Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

Jan Arve Haugan, the company’s operations director, told the broadcaster that the company would not order any more equipment until Norway’s government committed to further subsidies. 

“We are holding back further orders for prefabricated steel and concrete pending clarification on further progress,” he said. “We are keen to move forward, but we have to respect that there is a political process going on, and we have expectations that words will be put into action.” 

Freyr in April 2019 announced its plans to build the 17 billion kroner Giga Arctic in Mo i Rana, and has so far received 4 billion kroner in loans and loan guarantees from the Norwegian government. It has already started construction and hopes to complete the build by 2024-2025. 

Haugan said that the enormous subsidies for green industry in the Inflation Reduction Act voted through in the US in 2022 had changed the playing field for companies like Freyr, meaning Norway would need to increase the level of subsidies if the project was to be viable. 

Freyr in December announced plans for Giga America, a $1.3bn facility which it plans to build in Coweta, Georgia.   

“What the Americans have done, which is completely exceptional, is to provide very solid support for the renewable industry,” Haugen said. “This changes the framework conditions for a company like Freyr, and we have to take that into account.” 

Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s industry minister, said that the government was looking at what actions to take to counter the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, but said he was unwilling to get drawn into a subsidy battle with the US. 

“The government is working on how to upgrade our instruments and I hope that we will have further clarifications towards the summer,” he said.

“We are not going to imitate the Americans’ subsidy race. We have never competed in Norway to be the cheapest or most heavily subsidised. We have competed on competence, Norwegian labour, clean and affordable energy and being world champions in high productivity.”