On one pig farm owned by the chairman of the board of Swedish Meats, an association representing more than 17,000 livestock farmers in Sweden, the group recorded footage of pigs chewing on the carcass of a dead pig.
The Animal Rights Alliance (Djurrättsalliansen) has visited hundreds of farms over the last two years, according to Sveriges Radio (SR).
The group claims to have found grave violations of Sweden's animal protection laws at basically every farm it visited.
The pigs' living quarters lacked hay on the floors, exhibited poor air quality, and the animals had sores and other injuries.
One of the farms visited by the group is owned by Lars Hultström, who, in addition to serving as the chair of Swedish Meats, also has leadership positions in Sveriges Grisproducenter, an association of Swedish pig farmers, and several other agricultural associations.
Visiting Hultström's farm last Sunday, the Animal Rights Alliance filmed a group of pigs chewing on a dead pig lying on the floor of a pig pen. Several pigs had injuries on their legs, and their pens lacked any hay.
Sveriges Radio claims to have reviewed the film and confirmed its authenticity.
Johan Beck Friis of the Swedish Veterinary Association (Sveriges Veterinärförbund – SVF) said the film shows “a serious case of the mistreatment of animals”.
“This is prohibited and unacceptable in every way, both from the perspective of hygiene and animal protection,” he told SR.
Swedish agriculture minister Eskil Erlandsson, himself a former pig farmer, is distraught about the revelations of animal mistreatment on Swedish pig farms.
“I'm upset and really sorry,” he told the TT news agency.
Hultström initially refused to comment on the images or conditions on his farm.
But in the wake of the scandal, he said on Tuesday that he plans to take a “time out” from responsibilities on the boards of several agricultural associations until an investigation into the matter is complete.
Jan Åke Robertsson, CEO of Svenska Djurhälsovården, a veterinary company owned by Swedish meat producer Scan, told TT that representatives from his company had been out to Hultström's farm earlier in the day.
“After a review and the administering of medical treatment, and the putting down of the seriously ill pigs, there are no more problems with the animals' health,” he told TT.
While he admitted that the lack of hay was the result of a technical problem which has since been corrected, it is not sufficient to explain the pigs' poor living conditions.
“Every case like this is a terrible event and it reflects badly on all the others – many – who every moment of every day care for their pigs and maintain a standard which is unique to Sweden,” Robertsson told TT.
The Animal Rights Alliance said it has reported more than 90 pig farmers to police for violating Swedish animal protection laws.