Commissioned by Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Dec 2020)
For NZZ I visited a pig farm in Prignitz, Brandenburg, to photograph “Falko” the pig. Writer Anja Stehle followed Falko from birth until the day he was slaughtered, a total life span of 215 days. Mass meat consumption, cheap wages, and cost pressure have lead animals, humans and the environment into a dead end. In 2019, Germany was the worlds third largest pork exporter.
Farmer Ralf Remmert is aiming at revolutionizing the horrific pig farming standards in Germany. He refuses to castrate his pigs, grind off their teeth, or cut off their tails, all common practices in German pig farming. He wants to grant his pigs as much freedom of movement as possible to ensure the pigs lead a happy life before they will be slaughtered for high quality meat production. Mr. Remmert is a pioneer, who proves that it is possible to ensure a higher animal welfare. He is currently building a new, bigger barn with underfloor heating, where the sows and piglets can live together, without the cruel box stands in which mother animals are usually locked up in. Commonly, the massive, 300kg mother animals are locked up alone in boxes measuring only 65-70cm in width and 1,8- 2m in length, for five months. This prevents the sow from crushing her piglets when she lays down.
150 million pigs were bred in the EU In 2017. Germany is ranked second highest producer of pork meat after Spain, with 27,6 million pigs farmed. In Berlin and Brandenburg alone, six million people consume around 220 million kilos of pork per year. Germany’s leading meat processing company, ‘Tönnies’, located in North Rhine Westphalia, slaughters 20.000 pigs per day. In June 2020, Tönnies was hit by a severe Coronavirus outbreak with over 2000 employees that tested positive. 7,000 people in the area were instructed to go into quarantine. This incident has prompted Germany to review stricter regulations on its meat industry.