Factory farming in nrw: the minister’s dirty tricks

The new Minister of Agriculture, Christina Schulze Focking, is under pressure. In her pig fattening farm, terrible conditions are said to have prevailed.

There was quite a bit of piggery here: the Schulze Focking pig farm Photo: dpa

After just two weeks in office, North Rhine-Westphalia’s new agriculture minister Christina Schulze Focking (CDU) is under pressure because of inappropriate animal husbandry. Hard-to-bear images filmed by animal rights activists in spring at Schulze Focking’s home pig farm show badly injured creatures: Pigs with pitted curly tails, in which the tissue is inflamed and in some cases already necrotic – that is, dead.

Other pigs limp with inflamed joints. In addition, the film footage, which Stern TV published on Wednesday evening, documents a lack of water and excessive ammonia concentrations in the barn air, which can corrode the pigs’ lungs. Reason for it might have been lacking stable hygiene: It can be seen that the slatted floor of the factory farm was so clogged with excrement that the animals’ feces could no longer drain away.

Agriculture Minister Schulze Focking, who is no longer co-owner of the fattening farm in Steinfurt near Munster since June 30, did not want to comment on the allegations when asked. Instead, her NRW Ministry for the Environment and Agriculture referred to a statement by the Christian Democrat’s husband, Frank Schulze Focking: in principle, "the farm feels committed to animal welfare out of deep conviction."

However, for a "short period of the first half of 2017," the farmer admits to "exceptional disease progression." Out of 940 pigs, "a total of 31 animals were emergency-killed or died by July 3, 2017," he writes.

The minister must now make it clear whether she is really committed to animal welfare or rather to profit maximization, therefore demands the deputy chairman of the SPD state parliamentary group, Christian Dahm. The Greens already consider the state-certified farmer to be a complete miscast: "As Minister of Agriculture, Ms. Schulze Focking can no longer appear credible, and as Minister of Animal Welfare she is completely out of place," says state parliamentary group leader Arndt Klocke.

The animal suffering on the Schulze Focking farm is not an isolated case. "Crass" is indeed the amount of injured animals, says Christian Adam of the organization tierretter.de: "You don’t often see something like that." The cannibalism of mutual tail biting, however, is a direct consequence of factory farming. Consumers are also called upon, says Ophelia Nick, chairwoman of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bauerliche Landwirtschaft in NRW: "98 percent of pigs in Germany are not kept in a species-appropriate manner."