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Report Finds 3% of UK Farms Are Inspected, Animal Equality Co-Authors

Animal Equality UK has released a first-of-its-kind joint report that sheds light on how UK’s animal protection laws are currently being enforced in today's industrialized farming system.
November 10, 2022 Updated: August 20, 2023

Animal Equality UK, along with The Animal Law Foundation, has released a groundbreaking report investigating the shortcomings in how current UK animal protection laws are being monitored and enforced. The comprehensive report, which was published exclusively by The Guardian, sheds light on what existing animal protection laws are in place, how these laws are monitored, and what happens when they are violated. What we found was evidence of what has been named ‘The Enforcement Problem.’

Since 2006, Animal Equality has investigated over 820 factory farms and slaughterhouses. The hundreds of hours of footage captured show the majority of farms breaking animal welfare laws without serious consequences.

Animal Equality’s investigations have exposed:

  • Pigs routinely have their tails cut off without pain relief
  • Cows on dairy farms are barely able to walk because they are forced to walk back and forth on concrete floors all day, carrying unnaturally high volumes of milk in their udders
  • Chickens are unable to stand due to their unnaturally large weight. Many die from being unable to reach their food or water
  • Salmon are routinely slaughtered while still conscious

Undercover investigations completed by Animal Equality were analyzed for this report, in combination with hundreds of documents, data sets, and insights from the Government and local authorities, veterinary experts, leading academics, and investigative animal protection organizations.

What Did We Find?

The report by Animal Equality and The Animal Law Foundation uncovered a shocking lack of monitoring and enforcement of animal protection laws.

On average between 2018 and 2021:

  • Fewer than 3% of UK farms were inspected every year—meaning 97 out of 100 farms were not formally inspected
  • Only half (50.45%) of farms that received complaints for animal welfare concerns were subsequently inspected
  • Of those inspections, around one-third (31.38%) of farms were found in non-compliance.
  • Just .33% of farms were prosecuted following the initial complaint 

Why Is There A Lack Of Farm Inspections?

In the UK, there are over 180 taxpayer-funded bodies responsible for overseeing animal welfare on farms. However, only one inspector is assigned to every 205 farms. That number is likely to be even less in practice, as this includes part-time workers and those with farm welfare duties as a part of a wider role.

In addition to a lack of inspections, there is a severe lack of enforcement when animal welfare violations occur. Based on data collected directly from the responsible entities only half of the complaints they received in recent years were followed up with an inspection. 

Of those inspected, illegalities were found in approximately one-third of cases. Only one in 300 farms were prosecuted following the initial complaint.

As The Guardian reported, “even when investigations by animal protection organizations such as Animal Equality, Animal Aid, Compassion in World Farming and Open Cages uncovered alleged evidence of illegal activity or substandard practices, more often than not it went unpunished.”

Across 65 investigation releases by animal protection organizations, including Animal Equality, from 2016 to 2021, illegal activity or poor practices were discovered in every facility. Yet there was no formal enforcement action taken in over 60% of cases, to our knowledge.

Non-compliance is endemic, evidenced time and again through undercover investigations and now further bolstered by the data revealed in this report. Pigs are having their tails cut off, cows are unable to walk or stand and hens are crammed into overcrowded cages, yet farms are typically receiving little more than a slap on the wrist. These findings are disturbing and should be alarming to any consumer. Animal abusers need to truly be held accountable.

-Abigail Penny, Executive Director for Animal Equality UK

Are US Farms Monitored for Animal Welfare?

There are currently no federal animal welfare inspections of US factory farms. This is because there are no federal animal welfare laws these farms need to comply with. All agricultural practices, like the tail docking of pigs without pain relief or the harmful rapid growth of chickens for meat, are completely legal under federal law and the laws of most states.

The USDA has said it will not inspect farms and there are not enough inspectors to oversee slaughterhouses—it would take thousands to properly cover just one of the largest farms.

All 50 states have laws that protect against animal cruelty. Most explicitly exclude farmed animals and any routine factory farming practices, no matter how cruel. If a state recognizes the abuse of farmed animals and a complaint is filed for cruelty in that state, it is the responsibility of local law enforcement to inspect. It is rare that these complaints receive a follow-up, much less a conviction.

How you can help:

As Animal Equality has discovered time and time again during our undercover investigations, farmed animals are routinely abused on factory farms. The breeding and slaughtering of animals for meat, dairy and eggs are never cruelty-free. It’s time for their pain and suffering to end altogether. Add your voice to our End Factory Farming campaign to denounce animal agriculture and its cruel practices.

As long as there is a demand for animal products—chickens, pigs, hens, fish and cows will continue to suffer. Help stop the demand. Tell the industry you demand a world where all animals are respected and protected. Go plant-based today!

Rescued hen held by Animal Equality volunteer


With rich emotional lives and unbreakable family bonds, farmed animals deserve to be protected.

You can build a kinder world by replacing animal food products with plant‑based ones.

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