Babe actor pleads with Minister to halt plans for exporting live pigs to China

James Cromwell, who starred in the classic film, says live exports are a ‘stain on humanity’

The actor who teamed up with a pig called Babe to take the world of sheep trials by storm, and was nominated for an Oscar for his efforts, has written to the Minister for Agriculture to condemn the practice of live pig exports and to plead with the Government to suspend plans to ship breeding sows to China.

In the letter activist and actor James Cromwell – whose screen credits include The Green Mile, LA Confidential, The Queen, Spider-Man and, most recently, Succession – condemned the export of live animals generally as a "stain on humanity" and the export of live pigs to China in particular as "both unnecessary and cruel".

China ramped up imports of breeding pigs last year to meet surging demand after the country’s herd was decimated by the deadly African swine fever.

In recent weeks the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, confirmed that an agreement had been reached with the Chinese authorities to pave the way for the export of breeding pigs from Ireland to China.


“I had the great privilege and pleasure of learning about pigs when I starred in the movie Babe. They’re fascinating animals who possess a remarkable capacity for love and joy – as well as sorrow,” Cromwell said in the letter.

‘Breeding machines’

“I was therefore shocked to hear about your plans to export these wonderful animals from Ireland to China, where they’ll be used as breeding machines. And I urge you, on behalf of kind people everywhere, to reconsider,” he continued.

He argued that treating pigs as cargo – forcing them to endure a long journey in cramped cages while exposing them to excessive noise and changes in air pressure – is both unnecessary and cruel, and it would cause immense stress to these sensitive animals. “Worse still, whatever protections they might have in Ireland fly completely out the window when they arrive in China where there are no laws to protect animals on farms.”

He concluded by saying that “pigs deserve better than this” and he pleaded with Mr McConalogue to “see that shipping pigs abroad does not align with the friendly spirit Ireland is known for” and to “do the right thing and reverse this decision. Better still, ban the live export trade – a stain on humanity – entirely.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor