Pigs

Pigs are intelligent beings[1] [2] whose needs are categorically suppressed in factory farm facilities[3]. They are incredibly social, live in families[4] and are known to formulate intimate and enduring relationships with other species, including humans[5].

 

Yelmah Piggery, SA, courtesy of www.aussiepigs.com

Yelmah piggery, SA. Image courtesy of Aussiepigs.com

Today’s commercially raised pigs share little with those we are shown in sanitised industry images; illustrated graphics featuring smiling faces and barnyards are stamped on plastic packages, resembling nothing of the modern factory farm. Instead, today’s pigs are packed into facilities that are more akin to industrial manufacture factories than any romanticised notion of the traditional family farm. Stemming from the development of the industrial mode of agricultural production in the 20th century, so-called livestock animals underwent drastic alterations aimed at processing the most meat at the lowest cost in the fastest time possible. As a result, pigs were bred to develop at abnormally swift speeds, in part due to the alterations made available through scientific and genetic manipulation, notably the development of artificial insemination[6].

Factory farming is hidden from the public eye, unknown to many consumers who still believe that animals are raised on ‘Old McDonald’s farm’. It is quietly sanctioned by a legal system which permits the use of many inhumane practices to raise animals for meat, eggs and dairy products. Savvy producers have utilised this veil of secrecy by hiding behind rustic marketing imagery, sanitised packaging and feel-good labels like ‘farm fresh’”

Voiceless’ From Label to Liable report[7]

 

The state of the industry

Each year, close to 5 million pigs are slaughtered in Australia for human consumption[8]. The number of pigs killed each year has incrementally swelled since 2008, in line with the growing level of pigmeat consumption[9] and despite the fact that the number of pig slaughterhouses has declined since 2010[10]. There currently exist close to 600 “pig farm operations” throughout Australia, with the majority presiding in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland[11].

 

Wally's Piggery, NSW 2012, image courtesy of www.aussiepigs.com

 Wally’s Piggery, c. 2012. Image courtesy of Aussiepigs.com

The amount of pigmeat consumed in Australia has increased rapidly since the late 1940’s, when it stood at little more than 3kgs, to the dramatic spike between the 60’s and 70’s, when consumption levels doubled and have continued to increase since[12] . This growth is largely in line with the development and adoption of factory farming practices and operations in Australia.

The pigs are either born on-site or trucked in to keep the commercial population profitable. They are then administered a catalogue of medications and antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to reach a cost-effective slaughter weight, or they are confined in stalls barely as big as their ballooning bodies, left to survive in an atmosphere that is as painful as it is cruel. For as long as they are kept at the facility, they will be kept as immobile and restricted as possible, when their health or productivity wanes, they too will be sent to slaughter.

 

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Image taken from Compassion in World Farming

According to a report published by Compassion in World Farming[13], “the living conditions of the wild boar [from which all pigs in northern Europe originate] and the intensively reared pig could not be more different”. In the wild, pigs live in family groups of up to 4 sows and their piglets. In these family units, they continually roam and alter their environment, and have been known to travel hundreds of kilometres. An Australian government report acknowledges that adult pigs are known to roam up to 43 kilometres, whilst sows range up to 20 kilometres[14]. Neither of these distances can possibly be accounted for in modern farming facilities, where they are subject to unimaginable crowding and often suffer injuries that leave them dormant without adequate veterinary attention.

"Pigs have cognitive functioning abilities similar to that of a three-year-old human child" [15]

As Voiceless have shown in their From Paddocks to Prisons report[16], pigs are codified as ‘stock animals’ in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA) which effectively amounts to their exemption from protection otherwise afforded to other animals. Particular provisions of Act are rendered inconsequential when applied to pigs, designated ‘swine,’ and authorises their confinement and sanctions acts which would be characterised as cruelty. This includes state sanctioned permission to castrate without anaesthetic, so-called “tooth-trimming,” and tail-docking, all of which subject the animal to entirely unnecessary and inhumane suffering.

Soon after birth, a piglet’s ear will be mutilated for identification purposes and is a trauma that can be seen in much of the footage obtained from undercover investigations, both in Australian piggeries and abroad. Teeth are euphemistically “clipped,” again without the aid of anaesthetic, as a technique to minimise injuries obtained during fights that are virtually non-existent outside intensive confinement operations.

When a sow is pregnant in her natural environment, she begins the farrowing process and prepares by spending hours building a nest to protect her newborn piglets[17], and can walk kilometres in search of the most suitable and appropriate place to give birth[18]. This is a sow’s natural tendency and intuition, and is an instinctive behaviour that has not been lost with the development of intensively confined farming practices[19]. After giving birth, the sow communicates with her piglets, is perceptive and alert to their needs, and protects them if endangered. It has also been recorded that sows occasionally share litters and nests, thereby effectively parenting the piglets communally[20].

Although pigs in modern intensive farming facilities lead lives drastically and intrinsically removed from their natural behaviours and environments, domesticated pigs are comparable to many other domesticated animals in that they preserve the fundamental behaviourisms as in the wild[21]. This inevitably leads to a commensurate eruption in stress, often exhibited in the form of stereotypies In factory farms, however, sows are confined to stalls (known as gestation crates[22] in the US) scarcely bigger than their bodies. As the primary industry body, Australian Pork Limited (APL), admit, these are “a highly confining type of housing” that is used on “some farms”. According to data obtained from APL, over 2,200 facilities were operating during the 2010-11 reporting period[23].

 

Moves to ban sow stalls

Sow stalls at Dublin Piggery SA

Typical industry-standard sow stalls in Dublin Piggery, SA. Image courtesy of Aussiepigs.com

Although talk of banning the use of sow stalls in Australia signals a direly needed change in the conditions pigs are kept in on factory farms, what does it actually mean? Animals defined by legislation and law as “food animals” are afforded none of the protection from cruelty that is granted to companion animals. As pigs are reared for profit it is legal to regard them as property and treat them in a manner that could ensue charges of animal cruelty.

Currently, all states allow the use of sow stalls with the exception of ACT.

In 2010, Tasmanian opposition leader Bryan Green accepted a regulatory impact statement prepared by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries calling for “new minimum standards” regulating the size and length of confinement in sow stalls. The recommendation that confinement be limited to no more than 6 weeks per pregnancy and that the use of stalls be outlawed by 2017[24]. The same year, the primary body of the pork industry Australian Pork Limited (APL), disclosed publicly that their members “overwhelmingly voted to voluntarily phase-out the use of sow stalls by 2017”, despite voicing complaints from the CEO that such a change will result in considerable financial investment[25] . In 2012, Bryan Green allotted a $500,000 budget to assist pig farmers transition away from the use of sow stalls ahead of the original 2017 target[26]. Shortly after these industry developments, the Coles supermarket chain declared that pigmeat sold on their shelves would adhere to “sow-stall free” conditions by 2015 and would not stock any Australian or international pork supplier that utilised sow stalls for over 24 hours per pregnancy.

However, within months Minister Green reneged on his pledge, allowing the continued use of sow stalls on Tasmanian farms. The APL “ban” was also uncovered to be little more than a band-aid on a bullet wound, allowing up to 11 days in intensive confinement, which is neither binding nor enforced. As a representative from the Government’s Animal Welfare Committee expressed shortly after this “backflip,” an inspector tasked with supervising and enforcing the time-specific ban would have no way to know how long the sow had been confined in a stall[27] Major supermarkets chains Coles and Woolworths both pledged that the allowance of up to 10 days in stall confinement will not be tolerated, and thus, any farm or supplier that uses these methods will be prohibited from sale in their stores.

In 2014 the pioneering Animal Welfare (Factory Farming) Amendment Bill 2013 was passed in the capital’s Legislative Assembly[28], prohibiting a number of intensive factory farming practices. The bill places a moratorium on the use of battery cages; sow stalls; and the industry standard of “debeaking” factory-farmed chickens. Although the bill places no ban on the sale of either eggs produced in battery cage operations nor pork products yielded from facilities that continue to use sow stalls, the bill stands as a tentative guide to other Australian states in alleviating the inherent suffering of factory farming.

Whilst this is understandably a welfare issue, it is one that immeasurably affects the lives of the animals on a daily and continual basis. As creatures they are recast as units whose sole duty in life is to create profit and ensure the continued existence of the industry.

For updates and exposes, follow Animal Liberation NSW on Facebook or visit aussiepigs.com.



[1] Goodall, J. 2010 ‘Foreword’, in M. Bekoff (ed.), Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, 2nd edition, Greenwood Press: California.

[2]Broom, D. M., 2010, ‘Cognitive ability and awareness in domestic animals and decision about obligations to animals,’ Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 126, pp. 1-11.

[3]Humane Society International, 2014, ‘An HIS report: the welfare of animals in the pig industry’. Available at: http://www.hsi.org/assets/pdfs/hsi-fa-white-papers/welfare_of_animals_in_the_pig.pdf

[4] Arey, D. and Brooke, P. 2006, ‘Animal welfare aspects of good agricultural practice: pig production,’ Compassion in World Farming report.

[5]Voiceless, 2005, From Paddocks to Prisons: Pigs in New South Wales, Australia; Current Practices, Future Directions. Available from: https://www.voiceless.org.au/the-issues/pigs

[6]Bekoff, M. (Ed.), 2010, Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, Greenwood Press: Oxford.

[7]Voiceless, 2007, From Label to Liable: Scams, Scandals and Secrecy. Available at: https://www.voiceless.org.au/our-approach/research-and-publications

[8]Australian Pork Limited (APL), 2012, ‘Australian pig annual: 2012-2013’. Available at: http://australianpork.com.au/facts-figures/market-reporting/

 

[10]Australian Government Department of Agriculture, 2014, Australian Food Statistics: 2012-2013. Available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.au

[11]Australian Pork Limited (APL), 2012, Australian Pig Annual: 2012-2013. Available at: http://australianpork.com.au/facts-figures/market-reporting/

[12] Australian Government Department of Agriculture, 2014, Australian Food Statistics: 2012-2013. Available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.au

[13] Arey, D. and Brooke, P. 2006, ‘Animal welfare aspects of good agricultural practice: pig production,’ Compassion in World Farming report.

[14]Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2011, ‘The feral pig (sus scrofa)’. Available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/a897fd1d-3d5c-408d-957e-3cf03f0b103b/files/pig.pdf

[15]Friedrich, B. 2012, ‘Effective advocacy: stealing from the corporate playbook”. In P Singer (ed.), In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, pp. 187-196.

[16]Voiceless, 2005, From Paddocks to Prisons: Pigs in New South Wales, Australia; Current Practices, Future Directions. Available from: https://www.voiceless.org.au/the-issues/pigs

 

[18]Markus, E., 2001, Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating, McBooks Press: New York.

[19]Wischner, D., Kemper, N., and Krieter, J. 2009, ‘Nest-building behavior in sows and consequences for pig husbandry,’ Livestock Science, vol. 124, pp. 1-8.

[20]Humane Society International, 2014, ‘An HIS report: the welfare of animals in the pig industry’. Available at: http://www.hsi.org/assets/pdfs/hsi-fa-white-papers/welfare_of_animals_in_the_pig.pdf

[21]Ibid.

[22]Druce, C. and Lymbery, P. 2006, ‘Outlawed in Europe’. In P Singer (ed.), In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, pp. 123-132.

[23]Australian Pork Limited (APL), 2012, Australian Pig Annual: 2011-2012. Available at: http://australianpork.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Australian-Pig-Annual-2011-12-LR.pdf

[24] Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, 2013, ‘Regulatory impact statement: Restrictions on the use of sow stalls’. Available at: http://biosecurityadvisory.dpipwe.tas.gov.au/Lists/BiosecurityAdvisory/Attachments/50/sowstallsRIS.pdf

[25]Australian Pork Limited (APL), Annual Report: 2010-2011. Available at: http://australianpork.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Annual-Report-2010-2011.pdf

[26]Farmpoint, 2012, ‘Improving animal welfare in the pig and poultry industries’. Available from: http://www.farmpoint.tas.gov.au/farmpoint.nsf/news/88697F65EE238E86CA257A050001F0A8

[27]ABC News, 2012, ‘Sow stall backflip,’ 4 November. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-03/sow-stall-backflip/4351244