Pigs: The Untold Side of Pig Farming

Pigs are intelligent and emotional beings whose needs are categorically suppressed in all farm facilities. Over 90% of pigs in Australia are imprisoned in factory farms. When free to exhibit natural behaviours, pigs are known to form strong social bonds, and live in families, formulating intimate and enduring relationships with other species, including humans. Studies have shown that pigs can recognise 20 to 30 individuals, constantly communicate with each other, create warm and comfortable nests for their babies and sing to their piglets. Their piglets in turn will run to their own mother’s voice.

 

Pig Farming Issues
Animal Liberation's Solution

The Hidden Lies

Today’s commercially raised pigs share little with those we are shown in 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.

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. Many of these same procedures would be illegal if the species were not one designated “food animal”. Savvy producers have utilised this veil of secrecy by hiding behind rustic marketing imagery, sanitised packaging and feel-good labels like ‘farm fresh’.

The State of the Industry

Each year, close to 5 million pigs are slaughtered in Australia for human consumption. This number has incrementally swelled since 2008, in line with the growing level of pigmeat demand. Despite this, the number of pig slaughterhouses has declined since 2010. This ultimately means that the living space for pigs has shrunk dramatically, resulting in factory farming practices. There currently exist close to 600 “pig farm operations” throughout Australia, with the majority in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland.

Unnatural Living Conditions

Pigs are either born on-site or trucked in to keep the commercial population profitable. They are 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 confined 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.

According to a report published by Compassion in World Farming, “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. 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 immobile without adequate veterinary attention.

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, and can walk kilometres in search of the most suitable and appropriate place to give birth. 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. After giving birth, the sow communicates with her piglets, is perceptive and alert to their needs, and protects them if danger is present. It has also been recorded that sows occasionally share litters and nests, thereby effectively parenting the piglets communally.

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. This inevitably leads to a commensurate eruption in stress, often exhibited in the form of stereotypies (often repetitive behaviours borne of stress). In factory farms, however, sows are confined to stalls (known as ‘gestation crates’ 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.

Treatment

As Voiceless have shown in their ‘From Paddocks to Prisons’ report, pigs are codified as ‘stock animals’ in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA). This effectively amounts to their exemption from protection otherwise afforded to other animals. Particular provisions of POCTAA are rendered inconsequential when applied to pigs, authorising their confinement and sanctions acts which would otherwise be codified 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. This 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 violence that is virtually non-existent outside intensive confinement facilities.

The Environment

Animal agriculture is more devastating to our natural environment than all other human activities combined. Animal farming is by far the most environmentally costly way of feeding the world.

 

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) found that livestock production generated more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector combined and is a major source of land and water degradation. The 2006 report concluded that the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”. Finally, the UN FAO found that the consumption of animal flesh contributes to “problems of land degradation, climate change, air pollution, water shortage and pollution, and loss of biodiversity”.

Death By Carbon Dioxide Gas Chambers

In 2015, Animal Liberation NSW and Animal Liberation Victoria obtained footage from three separate Victorian pig slaughterhouses known for using the pig industry’s “best practice” stunning method: carbon dioxide gas chambers. This is where most pigs in Australia, including those raised as “free range”, take their final breaths.

The three slaughterhouses are Diamond Valley Pork (Laverton VIC), Australian Food Group (Laverton VIC) and C A Sinclair (Benalla VIC).

At Diamond Valley Pork, the camera captured a pig who pushed through the barrier into the chamber before a gondola was in place, falling onto the gondola below and then down to the bottom of the chamber – if the fall didn’t kill him, the gas would have within minutes.

At the Benalla abattoir, workers use high amperage electric prods connected to mains power, delivering repeated excruciating shocks to the pigs in order to force them up the chute into the gas chamber. On multiple occasions the prod was held against the anus of the pigs. This is done in full view of the facility’s surveillance cameras.

Asphyxiation

These gas chambers rely on some major misconceptions that work to permit their continued use. In particular, it is suggested that, like might be expected with carbon monoxide, the pigs simply fall asleep. With carbon dioxide, the complete opposite occurs – the pigs lose consciousness through agonising asphyxiation.

Suffering

In order to gather the footage, an activist had to be lowered into the chamber while wearing an oxygen tank to position hidden cameras. Immediately they noticed a burning sensation in their. This led to the discovery that when carbon dioxide reacts with liquids or mucus coated membranes (like that of the eyes, nostrils, sinuses, throat, and lungs), it forms carbonic acid. From their first lungful of gas, these pigs burn from the inside out.

Electric Prods

High amperage electric prods are used to force pigs up the chute into the gas chamber. These inflict an immense amount of pain on the animal, forcing them to move out of fear.

 

Ban the Sow Stall: There is an urgent need to ban sow stalls in Australia. But what does this 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 maintained that confinement be limited to no more than 6 weeks per pregnancy and that the use of stalls be outlawed by 2017. The same year, the primary body of the pork industry Australian Pork Limited (APL), disclosed that their members “overwhelmingly voted to voluntarily phase-out the use of sow stalls by 2017”. 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. 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. Major supermarkets chains, including Coles and Woolworths, have 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. This bill prohibits a number of industry-standard practices. For example, the bill places a moratorium on the use of battery cages, sow stalls, and the industry standard of “debeaking” (link to the Battery Cage issue page?). 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. It is only by reducing this demand that the reliance on such systems will be removed. Animal Liberation campaigns to inform the Australian public on elements that the industry would prefer consumers not know and promotes the adoption of alternative, healthy, and compassionate dietary choices that are good for us, good for animals, and good for the planet we share. For updates and exposes, follow Animal Liberation on Facebook or visit Aussie Pigs.