The Pig Industry

For anyone who has spent time observing and interacting with pigs, there is no denying that they are exceptionally intelligent, emotional, and spirited animals, and having spent the last few months watching the progression of Rosa’s pregnancy, it’s clear to see that their natural maternal instincts are also extremely powerful.

We are lucky enough to have experienced the joys of watching a pig give birth in a natural environment, to nurture and nurse her piglets as nature intended, and to spend time bonding as a family unit. Unfortunately this is a rare thing in the modern world as millions of pigs are born and raised each year in atrocious conditions as part of the pork industry.

happy-pig-in-sanctuary

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Whilst it can be upsetting to learn the truth of what’s happening to these beautiful creatures, it’s important for us to become educated on the facts so we can try to bring about positive change for future generations of animals.

As Clever as a Child?

Numerous research studies have concluded that pigs are among the most intelligent animals on the planet, surpassing dogs and even three year old children on problem solving and intelligence tests. They are capable of assessing situations, observing the actions of others, and finding solutions based on their learnt knowledge.

In a natural setting, pigs develop very complex social groups in which they work together to raise their young and forage for food, yet when confined to small enclosures on a factory farm, they are not able to show any of these behaviors which often leads to a misconception about their level of intelligence. There have been many cases of pigs in factory farms working out how to unlock their pen door, and after doing so, instead of simply trying to escape on their own, unlocking other pig’s pens as well. This not only highlights their level of intelligence, but also their emotional connection to one another.

Pig Facts

  • Pigs vocalize using more than 20 different sounds and have complex social groups
  • Pigs know their names and come running over when called just like dogs
  • Pigs are very clean animals and never mess in their nest
  • Pigs do not have sweat glands so like to have a mud bath to cool down in hot weather

Pigs as Products

Unfortunately the majority of people view pigs as products. More than 250 million are raised and slaughtered every year in Europe alone, with the main purpose of being sold for meat. Aside from meat, pigs are also used to make medicines, fertilizer, glue, fabric dye, antifreeze, rubber, matches, crayons, chalk, and all sorts of other everyday items.

Whilst it can be extremely difficult to avoid using items which have pig products in them (such as cars, medicines, and workplace items), cutting the demand for pig meat will force industry manufacturers to find animal free alternatives for their products as it will become increasingly expensive to use pig derivatives.

pig-slaughter

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Animals are living, feeling individuals who have their own purpose in the world. It’s important for us to make the connection between the products we see in the shops and the lives of the animals who are being exploited and killed to make them. Each and every pig who is raised and killed for human consumption is a somebody not a something and we should respect all life on this planet.

The Life of a Breeding Sow

In the wild, pigs are very particular about choosing a birthing spot and can travel miles to find the perfect place. Once a suitable location has been found, they construct a nest from straw, grass, leaves, sticks, and branches, ensuring that the area is safe from predators and will be warm and comfortable for the new arrivals. We witnessed the remarkable nest building process ourselves when Rosa prepared to give birth to her precious piglets, and the instinctual drive to build this nest was incredibly strong.

Pregnant sows in factory farms do not get to exhibit their natural behaviors as they are confined to tiny cages known as ‘gestation crates’ where they are unable to walk or even turn around as the cages are only slightly larger than the size of their body. The floor of these crates are usually made of slats which are designed to let the manure fall through to a pile underneath, leaving these poor animals filthy dirty in their own excrement. Respiratory problems are common due to the high levels of ammonia coming from the feces they are living in. The hard unnatural floor causes multiple injuries to the feet and joints, and these issues are rarely addressed. Mental distress and anxiety are extremely common as these intelligent animals are confined to their tiny cages for months on end. The lack of mental stimulation or exercise leads to neurotic behaviors developing such as chomping down on the metal bars and chewing with an empty mouth.

gestation-crate

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Having spent the entirety of their pregnancy in the awful gestation crates, the sows are moved into ‘farrowing crates’ shortly before giving birth. These crates are almost identical to the gestation crates, except they have a small concrete area for the piglets to live in. The mother is so cramped that she is only able to stand or lay down, there is no room for her to turn around which means she is barely able to see her piglets at all. Once born, the piglets remain in the farrowing crates for 17 – 20 days to suckle from their mother, at which point they are taken away. They are mutilated without any anesthetic by having their tails cut off, teeth clipped, and castrated. They are then placed into pens until they have been sufficiently fattened ready for slaughter. This usually occurs after as little as 6 months. As soon as the piglets have been taken away from the mother at nearly three weeks old, she is placed back into the gestation crate and impregnated once again, and the cycle begins once more. The average sow goes through this process two and a half times a year until her production rate goes down, at which point she is sent to slaughter.

What about Free Range and Organic Pig Farming?

Many people see ‘free range’ or ‘organic’ pig products as a preferred option as it is marketed with the intention of making people believe that these pigs live happy healthy lives and therefore these products are not part of the cruelty of the factory farming system. Although their cages might be little larger, and their food may not be laden with chemicals, these pigs are still living a life of captivity, are still separated from their mothers shortly after birth, are still mutilated, and still have a death sentence hanging over them from the moment they are born. When an animal is being brought into the world to turn a profit, its welfare is always secondary to its monetary worth.

Systematic Abuse

Pigs are forced to live in cramped, dirty, and terrifying conditions for the entirety of their lives, and as if this isn’t bad enough, many of them are subjected to widespread abuse and violence. Numerous investigations over the last few years, most notably in England, Spain, and the United States, have uncovered horrific treatment of pigs time and again.

These investigations have revealed pigs being punched, kicked, hit with tools, and dragged around farms by vehicles when they are unable to walk properly. Multiple pigs have been found with prolapsed uteruses and anuses, abscesses, and many other serious conditions that will never receive treatment.

It’s important to note that these are by no means isolated incidents, and in fact more cases are being discovered all the time.

Find out more here:

factory-farmed-pigs

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

When animals are used as products, the true value of their life is ignored and instead they are valued by the monetary worth of their bodies. This means that their health and emotional well being are only considered as part of a financial equation. Most farms only carry out the minimum legal requirements to raise their animals as any more than this is going to reduce the amount of profit they can make. This means that in many cases minor injuries are completely ignored, and pigs with serious injuries and illnesses which would be too expensive to treat are simply killed or left to suffer and die.

If you have a heart for animals and do not agree with the treatment and murder of pigs, you can choose not to be a part of it any longer.

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