Pigs are social1 and intelligent2 animals, who naturally live in family groups3 and are arguably smarter than dogs4. Yet on factory farms, these sentient beings are treated like machines on a production line.
Most pregnant pigs in Australia are confined to lives of chronic suffering in sow stalls. These are small metal and concrete cages that are barely larger than the mother pig’s body; she can’t even turn around.
The science confirms what our common sense tells us: sow stalls cause physical and psychological harm to mother pigs. These devices prevent natural behaviours like exploring and socialising with other pigs,5 and can inflict skin abrasions when sows press up against the metal bars.6 Sow stalls often lead to serious health problems, including reduced bone strength and muscle weight,7 impaired locomotion and severe lameness.8
84%9 of Australian sows spend some of their pregnancy this way, while one third10 are confined for the full 16 weeks of their pregnancy. To give birth they are confined even more restrictively, in a ‘farrowing crate’ that barely allows them to move. Sows are repeatedly impregnated until they no longer produce enough piglets and are killed.11
As other countries take steps to legislate a ban on sow stalls, Australia is lagging shamefully behind. 82% of Australians believe that sow stalls should be banned,12 yet each year we allow around 250,00013 sows to be tormented by these devices.
Piglets in factory farms are taken away from their mothers prematurely; a stressful experience that causes a high incidence of clinical disease and diarrhoea.14 Male piglets are routinely castrated without pain relief, a practice so painful that it can provoke trembling and vomiting.15 Piglets’ teeth are often clipped without anaesthetic and this can cause up to 15 days of extreme pain.16
Pigs produced for meat on a factory farm generally spend their whole lives indoors. They are housed in crowded, concrete-floored pens with no natural materials. Scientific research proves that some factory-farmed pigs suffer prolonged depression because they are denied natural light, space and the opportunity to forage for food in natural surroundings.17
For many of these pigs, the trip to the slaughterhouse is their only chance to experience life outdoors and to feel the wind and the sun.
- Read the Voiceless Briefing on sow stalls
- Download our new report Science and Sense: the case for abolishing sow stalls
- Download our Fact Sheet on the factory farming of pigs
- Or our 2005 report From Paddocks to Prisons
- 1. Held S et al, ‘Social tactics of pigs in a competitive foraging task: the ‘uniformed forager’ paradigm’(2000) 59(3) Animal Behaviour 569-576 (quoted in Compassion in World Farming Trust, Stop-Look-Listen: Recognising the sentience of farm animals, (2003)); Jeremy N Marchant-Forde, ‘Welfare of dry sows’ in Jeremy N Marchant-Forde (ed), The Welfare of Pigs (Springer Science+Business Media, Dordrecht, 2009); Wood-Gush DGM, Jensen P, Algers B, ‘Behaviour of pigs in a novel semi-natural environment’ (1990) 15 Biol Behav 62-73.
- 2. Held S et al, ibid.
- 3. Michael Mendl, Suzanne Held and Richard W. Byrne, ‘Pig Cognition’ (2010) 20, 18 Current Biology, 796.
- 4. Amy Hatkoff, The Inner World of Farm Animals (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009) 97 (quoting Bernard E. Rollins).
- 5. D’Eath RB and Turner SP, ‘The natural behaviour of the pig’ in Jeremy N Marchant Forde (ed), The Welfare of Pigs (Springer Science+Business Media, Dordrecht, 2009).
- 6. Anil L et al, ‘Comparison of injuries in sows housed in gestation stalls versus group pens with electronic sow feeders’ (2003) 223 J Am Vet Med Ass 1334-1338; Guillermo A M Karlen et al, ‘The welfare of gestating sows in conventional stalls and large groups on deep litter’ (2007) 105 Appl Anim Behav Sci 87-101.
- 7. J N Marchant and D M Broom, ‘Effects of dry sow housing conditions on muscle weight and bone strength’ (1996) 62 Anim Sci 105-113.
- 8. Guillermo A M Karlen et al, above n 6.
- 9. Deduced from Table A6.3B in the Regulatory Impact Statement Consultation Draft on the Proposed Model Code Of Practice For The Welfare Of Animals – Pigs (RIS Pig Code).
- 10. Australian Pork Limited, Housing Australian Pork http://www.australianpork.com.au/pages/page175.asp
- 11. Marchant-Forde, above n. 1.
- 12. Survey of 1,000 randomly selected Australians commissioned by Voiceless and conducted by PureProfile in September 2011
- 13. Above n. 9
- 14. P Baynes and M Varley, ‘Gut health: practical considerations’ in Mike A Varley and Julian Wiseman, The Weaner Pig: Nutrition and Management (CABI Publishing, 2001) 249.
- 15. F Wemelsfelder and G van Putten,‘Behaviour as a possible indicator for pain in piglets’ IVO Report B-260 Research Institute for Animal Production Schoonoord, Schiest, Netherlands quoted in A.F. Fraser and D.M. Broom Farm Animal Behaviour and Welfare (CABI Publishing, 1997) 266.
- 16. M Hay et al, ‘Long-term detrimental effects of tooth clipping or grinding in piglets: a histological approach’ (2004) 13 Animal Welfare Journal 27-32.
- 17. European Commission Scientific Veterinary Committee (Animal Welfare Section), Report on the welfare of intensively kept pigs, Report No XXIV/B3/ScVC/0005/1997 (1997) http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sc/oldcomm4/out17_en.pdf