'This farm is the epitome of squalor'

Cranswick Country Foods supplies the nation's supermarkets with pork - but undercover filming has exposed 'squalor' and animal suffering.

Pigs are forced to live in filthy, wet, bare concrete pens, completely covered in their own urine and faeces with no respite.

A piglet is laying on a concrete floor shivering and groaning, apparently only able to slide in a slow circular motion. 

At 6am the baby pig is found by a staff member who drags the animal across the pen before leaving. The piglet is left to suffer for a further 13 hours while being trodden on and bitten by other piglets. Finally, at 3:40pm our piglet is removed by staff. 

A second pig, suffering from a bloody rectal prolapse, is cannibalised by its pen mate, who ends up with a bloodied face. A staff member removes the pig from the pen five hours later.


Rough handling by workers – including hard kicking and slapping – appears to be commonplace as workers move pigs around the site and onto trailers.

Workers are seen hitting pigs during loading, and ramming the animals with metal doors while they are already in overcrowded pens with nowhere to go. An illegal electric goad is used, it is claimed.

Farrowing crates, still legal in the UK, were in use on the farm and bins across the farm were full of dead pigs and piglets.

These are some of the shocking scenes captured on covert cameras by the pressure group Animal Justice Project at a megafarm that supplies pork sausages, hams and other meats to supermarkets including Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. The supplier, Cranswick Country Foods, has assured the supermarkets that the farm has been suspended pending further investigation. 

The Animal Justice Project claims that it has been able to gather evidence of potential breaches of the Animal Welfare Act, 2006, the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations, 2007 and the Red Tractor standards which that animal welfare must be at the core of farming practices.

Pig in squalor
(c) Animal Justice Project


The film footage also shows pigs unable to walk through lameness and unable to bear weight on all four legs as they are loaded up for the slaughterhouse – a possible breach of the Defra Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Pigs.

The footage, which was secretly filmed over three months, has now been released to the public and shared with the Trading Standards and Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA). Peter Egan, a Downton Abbey actor, has narrated the film for the public.

The pigs were being reared at the Bickmarsh Hall farm in Warwickshire, which is Red Tractor assured, for Cranswick Country Foods which in turn supplies many of the main UK supermarkets as well as Grove Pet Foods. The farm rears 8,000 animals in 46 sheds. In the US any farm with more than 2,500 pigs is defined as a megafarm.

Dr Alice Brough MRCVS, a former pig veterinarian, viewed the footage. She said: “This farm is the epitome of squalor, and unfortunately represents the norm for a large proportion of Britain’s pig farms. 

Pigs are forced to live in filthy, wet, bare concrete pens, completely covered in their own urine and faeces with no respite.

“Pigs are forced to live in filthy, wet, bare concrete pens, completely covered in their own urine and faeces with no respite. These are naturally extremely hygienic animals, and these cramped, dirty and very poorly enriched conditions are undoubtedly causing both physiological and psychological damage.


“The stress induced by such an environment and lack of appropriate care appears to be contributing to the presence of disease on farm, with associated mortality evidenced by full ‘dead bins’, and vice behaviours like tail biting and cannibalism. 

She added: “The level of consideration shown for the pigs by farm staff is deeply concerning, and it is evident that problems are not promptly and appropriately dealt with, leading to prolonged and entirely avoidable suffering.”

Claire Palmer, the founder of the Animal Justice Project, said: “Sadly, in this case, cameras don’t lie. Our footage captures the grim reality for pigs on modern-day farms in Britain as pork sales continue to rise. 

“Consumers are promised the world when it comes to their food choices, with Red Tractor, which includes 95 per cent of UK pigs under its label, offering public-pleasing assurances and high welfare claims, and corporate responsibility supermarket policies."

She added: “On Bickmarsh Hall farm, pigs were living in filth and faeces, left to suffer, and confined inside concrete cells. Consumers must now be asking themselves, is a bacon sandwich or pork pie really worth that?”

Dead pig
(c) Animal Justice Project


Peter Egan said: "Despite having witnessed many harrowing scenes of animal cruelty, I've found the video taken at Bickmarsh Hall farm particularly heart-breaking. 

“To see such intelligent and sensitive animals being so horrifically abused, from being hit, kicked, left to die, living in filth, and incarcerated in cages, reveals a callous industry that leaves a grave mark on humanity.”

The Animal Justice Project claims the infractions “are some of the worst” witnessed by its experienced staff. But they are concerned that the increase in the UK in the number of megafarms, which have thousands of animals being taken care of by fewer staff, will result in worsening welfare conditions. 

Bedding isn't required for all pigs under the Red Tractor scheme. Pens at Bickmarsh contained no bedding or comfort, but only hard slats. Many were filthy, with thick excrement covering the pigs. The animals were documented biting and fighting each other – with only five feed troughs for about 25 pigs.

There were almost 11 million pigs killed in 2021 by the UK agriculture industry. The number of animals being slaughtered continues to increase even as veganism becomes an increasingly popular dietary choice.


Cranswick Country Foods has stated that the “highest standards of animal welfare” are used “throughout the supply chain” and that all its UK producers are “independently audited”. It made an unannounced audit of Bickmarsh Hall after seeing the footage and declared that “the unit was found to be operating to the required standard.”

A Tesco spokesperson told the The Ecologist: “We take any allegations of this nature extremely seriously and are urgently investigating this footage with our supplier.

“We require all of our suppliers to uphold high animal welfare standards - all of our pigs are reared to recognised farm assurance standards such as Red Tractor, RSPCA Assured as well as our own Tesco Welfare Approved standard which exceeds Government-approved industry welfare standards.”

The Ecologist has asked for comment from Red Tractor, Cranswick Country Foods, Tesco and Sainsbury's.

This Author

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from the Animal Justice Project. 

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