The pork farm operates on the site of a former Nazi concentration camp where Roma people died during the Second World War.
The farm was built in the village of Lety, near Písek, south-west Czech Republic, in the 1970s, when it was part of the then communist Czechoslovakia. Now the Roma group – the Konexe association – wants EU subsidies removed, forcing the farm to close, so the site can be restored as a place of remembrance.
Konexe spokesperson Miroslav Brož said: “Without these subsidies the farm would be loss-making and would go bankrupt in a short time.” He was quoting from a letter written by the association to the European Commission, the EU executive. The letter added: “Stop supporting and funding pig breeding in places of the genocide of Roma. This farm only remains in this place thanks to your financial support.”
More than 320 people died (mainly of typhus) during the war at the Lety internment camp. Several hundreds of others were sent on to the death camp in Auschwitz in Poland. Between 1942 and 1943 a total of 1,309 people, predominantly Roma people, passed through the camp in Lety.
The farm is now in private hands. “Without subsidies, the pig farm (in Lety) would certainly go bankrupt,” confirmed Jan Stibal, director of Pig Breeders Association of the Czech Republic. Stibal said the situation was complicated and a solution would be hard to find: “I understand that it should be a reverent place, but it is not fair to exclude the farm from subsidies based on this legacy,” he said.
Czech Christian democrat member of the European Parliament Stanislav Polčák stressed that AGPI, the company which operates the pig farm, receives subsidies in line with all the regulations and is opposing the Roma group’s call. “As for the pressure of activists to halt the subsidies, this demand is according to my opinion totally irrational and would certainly not ease the situation,” said Polčák.
But he called on AGPI to work with the Roma community to reach an agreement: “From an ethical point of view, the company should...take into consideration the historical facts leading to the current initiative which strives for a dignified honouring of the memory of the victims and make an attempt to participate in finding a certain solution,” he said.
Polčák suggested that, should the pig farm halt operations, the Czech government could provide financial compensation to AGPI. This proposal has been backed by Czech ministers in the past, but has not been acted upon, with a lack of finances being blamed for the inaction.