Pigs are intelligent and emotional beings whose needs are categorically suppressed in factory 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.