Yaxham pig farmer ‘shell-shocked’ after video is released

A pig farm has been temporarily stripped of its Freedom Food status after footage alleging bad conditions was released by an animal sanctuary.

A mid Norfolk farmer is 'shell-shocked' after a video shot by an animal sanctuary was released alleging bad conditions on his pig farm.

Andrew Rush, 40, who owns Manor Farm in Yaxham, first found out about the two-hour overnight footage last week. The video was filmed by an investigator from the Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Frettenham, over a period of 10 weeks.

The farmer said: 'It was all a bit of a shock. I knew nothing about it until the RSPCA came on to my yard on Friday afternoon. They were demanding to see all of my livestock and didn't find anything wrong.'

The pig farm has been accredited by the independent body Freedom Food, which is recognised by the RSPCA, for two years.

This assurance is only granted to farms which meet a large criteria of welfare standards, including the amount of space where animals are kept, access to food and water and cleanliness.

Following the film, which is a 'fabrication' according to Mr Rush, the Freedom Food status was removed from the farm the day he received a visit from the RSPCA.

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A Freedom Food spokesman said: 'Freedom Food has suspended the membership of Manor Farm, Yaxham, pending further investigation, in response to footage received on Friday showing serious allegations of poor welfare.

'Any animal welfare failures on Freedom Food approved farms are totally unacceptable and are taken very seriously.'

They added that it is not known how long the investigation will take.

But Mr Rush is confident that his farm, which currently holds 4,000 pigs, will be reinstated with the accreditation 'imminently' after a Freedom Food audit of the unit took place on Monday.

He added the visit lasted nearly five hours and the inspector found no evidence of animal welfare neglect. The only problem discovered on the farm was to do with the electrics, which are due to be fixed this week.

Mr Rush, who has been pig farming for 10 years, said the Freedom Food staus proves his livestock are 'happy' and hopes the animal sanctuary's video has not affected his business.

Wendy Valentine, founder of the Hillside Animal Sanctuary, said an investigator started filming on Manor Farm from July 6, after a nearby villager raised concerns about smells, which came from the site. She described the scenes in the video as 'appalling'.

An RSPCA spokesman said: 'The RSPCA was shocked by the footage, which has been reviewed by one of our farm animals scientist.

'RSPCA staff visited the farm on Friday within three hours of viewing the footage, to check the conditions. The footage has highlighted areas of concern, which the RSPCA was not aware of.

'Officers instructed the farmer to provide more bedding for the pigs and cattle but did not find any emaciated cows, as appeared in the footage.'

Pigs on Manor Farm are provided by Easey Pigs, based in Ipswich, when the animals are four-weeks-old. The pigs are then taken away when they are six-months-old.

Chris Easey, director of the company, added: 'Easey Pigs takes the matter of animal welfare extremely seriously and does not tolerate any practice which would jepardise this commitment.'

He said all the farms which care for Easey Pigs' animals are members of the Farm Assurance Scheme, RSPCA, Freedom Food, or in most cases both.

Mr Easey added inspections of Manor Farm by the RSPCA and a Freedom Food auditor over the weekend revealed no evidence of animal welfare abuse.

Mr Easey said he has been providing pigs to Manor Farm for two years and the site is monitored on a weekly and fortnightly basis.

sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk