15 years undercover on the trail of the global meat industry

Andrew Wasley
50 min readJul 31, 2020

Award-winning food journalist Andrew Wasley has spent the best part of two decades investigating the hidden costs of cheap meat. He’s revealed the brutal conditions inside factory farms and abattoirs, exposed the devastating environmental impacts of industrial agribusiness and uncovered shocking food safety scandals that put the health of millions at risk. This is the full, inside story of his journey into the heart of the global meat machine. Photo journalist Jo-Anne McArthur has been documenting the lives of animals, including those used for food, for nearly 20 years. Her award-winning reportage has taken her to more than sixty countries.

Forest fires in Brazil— often linked to land clearance for beef cattle farming — have provoked global concern. Picture: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

Beyond a dense strip of forest, off a narrow single-track road in north west Poland, is what looks to the casual observer to be a man-made fishing lake, or perhaps a small reservoir. But as you approach, an appalling stench and a giant factory-style building begin to suggest otherwise.

This is no ordinary lake. It is an open cesspit, a vast lagoon full to bursting with waste from the nearby industrial-scale pig farm. Floating beneath the surface of the lagoon are the bodies of an unidentifiable number of dead pigs in various stages of decomposition.

Until their carcasses are prised out of the waste they are almost unrecognisable aside from the odd snout and curly tail visible in the filth. Everywhere is the detritus of factory farming — plastic syringe casings, intravenous needles and white clinical gloves — floating in the rancid pool and discarded on adjacent farmland.

These squalid scenes were filmed during a secret visit to Poland I made as part of an investigation into global pork firms. It was 2005 and controversy had been building about the arrival of foreign meat companies in the country a few years earlier.

A pig confined to a gestation crate. Picture: Jo-Anne McArthur/Animal Equality

Local people and campaigners were alarmed about the environmental and animal welfare consequences — as well as the potential impacts on smaller scale farmers — of having a multinational meat firm pitch up on their doorstep. I made several trips to Poland…



Andrew Wasley

Award-winning investigative journalist specialising in food and environment issues. Full coverage see: