Did you know that mother sows naturally sing to their piglets while they are suckling? Pigs, like us, have strong maternal instincts.
When a sow is kept in a farrowing crate, no such singing occurs. In fact, she cries out in pain as she is trapped, unable to stand up in a darkened room. There is no relief from this trauma, because after four weeks her piglets are taken away and she will be re-impregnated; forced to face the same ordeal over and over again. When she is unable to have any more piglets she will be sent off for slaughter.
Farrowing crates were originally designed to stop the mother from accidentally crushing her piglets as she moves around. Which, to be fair, is a terrible reality of pig farming. However the cruelty involved in keeping sows in farrowing crates necessitates finding an alternative.
The problem is that farrowing crates are ‘good enough’. They do the job and they don’t cost too much money. The pork industry must care more about money than ethics or else they’d have found a solution by now. Farrowing crates have been in use since the 1960s.
While the industry is phasing out sow stalls, there are no plans to do the same for farrowing crates, despite the fact that farrowing crates are smaller and more restrictive than sow stalls.
Other countries such as Sweden and Switzerland have already banned the farrowing crate, so why shouldn’t we do the same?
Pictured: A pig of superior intelligence, but inferior eye-sight
Pigs are social and intelligent animals. They play together, they have long-term memories and they can remember which people were nice to them and which people weren’t. It’s such a pity that many domestic pigs will go their whole lives without meeting any people in the former category. Shouldn’t it be the right of all animals to have a good life? Even if they’re just going to get eaten in the end. Factory farmed pigs suffer in cramped, unnatural conditions, and “bred free range” pigs suffer the same. Only free range pigs experience a life close to what they evolved to enjoy: open pastures, warm sun, and fresh air.
Pigs have been taught how to play video games. They have been taught to navigate mazes and solve puzzles. There are plenty of articles saying how pigs are more intelligent than dogs, or just as smart as chimpanzees. Some even go as far as to say they’re smarter than 3 year olds. We wouldn’t eat any of these would we? Well some people might but I’m sure we’d put them in prison or at least not want to be friends with them. The point is, most of us would agree that we shouldn’t eat smart things, and yet we’re still killing and eating thousands of highly intelligent animals every single day.
This isn’t going to suddenly change, and though it may seem unconventional for a blog of this type, I am of the opinion that we should not just stop eating pigs. It’s unquestionable that they’re delicious. Many people also rely on pig farming for their livelihood. However, I also think that pigs deserve to have good lives. We can change the way that they’re treated without having to forgo our lovely bacon. Just switch to free range. Coles and Woolworths are making this hard by not offering free range choices any more, but local butchers and smaller supermarkets may still have free range bacon or pork available.
Free range pork is more expensive than factory farmed, but not drastically so. Isn’t it worth a few extra dollars so you can have the peace of mind that you didn’t contribute to animal suffering? The meat will even taste better because it won’t be toughened from years of stress. You’ll be able to rest easy with a belly full of bacon, knowing that the pig you ate had a happy life. And you can bask in the warm glow of self-satisfaction, knowing that you’re also contributing to better treatment for pigs in the future.